Residents reorganizing to monitor Hwy. 20 plans
by Joshua Sharpe
March 07, 2014 04:00 AM | 3362 views | 8 8 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Special to the Tribune
The Georgia Department of Transportation is considering several options to re-work Highway 20 from Canton to Cumming, including widening the existing road, re-routing it in certain areas and building a new road altogether.
Special to the Tribune The Georgia Department of Transportation is considering several options to re-work Highway 20 from Canton to Cumming, including widening the existing road, re-routing it in certain areas and building a new road altogether.
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CANTON — Residents who fear an erosion of their quality of life and a rebirth of the controversial Northern Arc plans have organized a committee to keep the Georgia Department of Transportation’s plans for Highway 20 in the public eye.

The State Route 20 Committee formed in mid-February by residents in the Macedonia community and has been picking up steam with others concerned about GDOT’s project to improve the road from Canton to Cumming, said Robert Chambers, the group’s spokesman.

Chambers said eight subdivisions, representing about 1,450 homes, have so far become involved with the group, which is generally in support of making improvements to Highway 20 but has concerns about some of GDOT’s proposed methods.

In December, GDOT held public meetings about several potential ways to improve the heavily traveled and often-congested route. Among the proposals for the project — which officials with the agency say has no firm plans yet — are widening the existing road, rerouting parts of it or building a new road that could be a limited-access freeway with exits.

Some fear the potential freeway routes are reincarnations of the Northern Arc plans, which would have built a road north of Interstate 285 connecting Interstates 75 and 85 but was abandoned more than a decade ago after public outcry.

GDOT officials maintain they are not trying to bring those plans back, as some residents have suggested was the case with several projects in recent years.

Chambers said it’s evident looking at the freeway routes that the plans are similar to at least part of the Northern Arc. But for those involved in the committee, which Chambers said is growing daily, the concerns are based on the options other than simply widening the 25-mile stretch of road — Northern Arc or no Northern Arc.

“We’re opposed to the work-arounds, and we’re opposed to the freeways,” Chambers said. “We believe there are 105 subdivisions that could potentially be impacted by one of these freeways, because GDOT does not yet know the actual location of these roads.”

Scott Gero, of AECOM, a consulting firm working with GDOT on the plans, said the worries are being considered in planning the project, which likely won’t see construction until 2020 or 2022.

“Yes, it’s scary for some of these neighborhoods, but we’re looking for their feedback, we want to hear from them,” Gero said. “That’s part of the case we’re building to justify where we end up.”

GDOT is in the throes of a yearslong study into what the impact of the project would be on the environment, residents and businesses, and the rich history along the corridor. That study will result in an Environmental Impact Statement, which has been required by the Federal Highway Administration. An EIS is the highest level of environmental documentation that can be required for such a project.

Gero said once GDOT gets closer to drafting the EIS document, there will be a “much deeper dive” into examining the potential impacts of the proposed routes, which are flexible and have not been fully investigated yet.

“That (phase) is where the bulk of the work is, as far as determining the best solution and documenting that,” he said. “So, we’re still in the early planning-level stages, and we’re approaching the deeper dive, which will begin later this year.”

Gero was candid, though, that GDOT is trying to ensure that whatever is done to Highway 20 will be able to accommodate truck and regional traffic along the road, as it is a designated truck route and not only used by local drivers. Those were also considerations in the Northern Arc plans, though Gero said he wanted to be clear, “This is not the Northern Arc. It’s a different study area altogether.”

As the project progresses, the State Route 20 Committee plans to keep a close eye on what the transportation department is considering. Chambers said one effort the group will make is developing a website that will let landowners look at their individual parcel and see what the risk of the road ending up on their property could be.

“What we’re about is making this information available as close down to the personal level as we can,” he said.

While the committee members are most supportive of widening the existing road, Chambers says they also want to make sure that even if the road is only widened, the impact will be as low as possible.

Gero said GDOT does not have a preference of the proposed changes to the road yet, but each of the ideas, including widening the existing road, have challenges.

“There’s definitely some locations along the corridor, like Macedonia and Buffington, where you have a lot of development right up against the existing road, so to go through and widen it would wipe out potentially one side, maybe both sides,” he said. “That’s a large impact, and that’s why some of the corridors we presented in December show little bypasses of those areas.”

Before work begins on Highway 20, Gero said GDOT will have likely about five more rounds of public input hearings.

“We want to try to go back to the public at least once a year,” he said. “We’re trying to be open and transparent.”
Comments
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Canton Resident
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May 16, 2014
Dear Mr. Gero, Paid AECOM Consultatant for the GDOT:

Keep GA Highway 20 on GA Highway 20! There are simply no engineering facts or compelling needs now or in the future to build a new alternative route.

Taxed_To_Death
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March 13, 2014
The EPA reports that living, working, playing or going to school near large roads increases the number and severity of health problems.

What a load of bull pooh.

Envionitwits can't even be trusted to say that the sun rises in the East.
Hwy 20 Coalition
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March 12, 2014
GDOT's Screen 1scoring determined that improving the existing Hwy 20 roadway meets all identified needs through 2042.

The EPA reports that living, working, playing or going to school near large roads increases the number and severity of health problems. GDOT's plans for high speed roadways would substantially increase the number of Cherokee residents exposed to greater health problems. Especially the more than 3,800 students plus staff at Macedonia Elementary, Creekland Middle and Creekview High Schools that are within a few hundred feet of the proposed Alt C the southern Truck Route.

Cheroke County growth plans for relatively small Hamlets does not require high speed Truck Routes for success.

I repeatedly enjoy speed limit drives from Macedonia to Canton and Cumming, at least four times in the past week, what more should I expect.

What do we gain if we destroy what we seek? An unhealthy, crowded life for a few saved minutes... Does not add up to me.
Taxed_To_Death
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March 11, 2014
I say use the existing path. Most of the work has already been done. .

One reason the Northern Arc was canceled was that politicians were either buying the land or placing options to buy the land if the proposed road path. The exact sane thing happened during Hwy 316.

The new routes require lots of government worker bees to work a lot which extends the timeline. Everybody who is gonna receive any monies related to the job all want a huge project which equals big money payouts.

Besides, how many road projects come in under budget and ahead of schedule?

It took the DOT 3 years to add a few truck lanes to the existing Hwy 20.

I rest my case.
Shoals Resident
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March 07, 2014
Gero is lying. If you look at the northern arc plans in the past they are almost identical to the proposed option C we went over in a February meeting at Woodmont. Not to mention they will be running the option C road right next to Creekview and Creekland schools. Brilliant....make it easier for criminals to access kids at these schools. They are hiding the northern arc behind the name of the GA 20 project.
Jo Anne Leach
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March 07, 2014
Make no doubt about it this is yet another attempt to build out portions of the Northern Arc, and it is clear that in some areas like where I live in Ducktown at least one of the alternates follows the path of the ill fated Northern Arc Highway almost spot on. Residents have been asking for years that the existing highway be widened, yet GDOT continues to push the building of a 6 lane highway once again thru Cherokee and Forsyth counties, there is no justification for the sheer destruction that this type of construction would bring. The need and purpose is for the widening of the existing highway and nothing else.

Folks everyone needs to wake up, does anyone remember that Governor Perdue killed the Northern Arc in 2003? He came out to Forsyth County and held a large public meeting to declare it good riddance , so we believed in what he said, how could this road possibly be returning again? Well it still lurks in the long term plan of the ARC.

Time for everyone in these two counties to speak up and attend the Public Meetings in the Spring, get involved, the Northern Arc is rearing it's ugly head once again. This is a election year let's make our concerns heard loud and clear to our elected officials.
Mike McCracken
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March 07, 2014
Great article! Hwy20 Coalition needs our public support. The only way to keep government out of your home ( literally )is to keep them accountable.

Thanks to the Tribune for their support.
John Morrow
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March 07, 2014
I am adamantly opposed to the building of new Limited Access Freeway from Canton to Cumming as it will destroy the current balance of urban amenities and rural environment that we currently enjoy. Even the treat of such highways will have numerous negative impacts until GDOT starts to expeditiously eliminate the new freeway proposed alternatives. I support the widening of existing SR 20 as long as work arounds minimizes impacts.
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