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Options are many for widening Hwy. 20

Findings from DOT meetings released

POSTED: March 2, 2014 12:17 a.m.
 

FORSYTH COUNTY — It’s the most comprehensive environmental impact initiative attempted by the Georgia Department of Transportation.

Nearly 7,000 visitors have been to the survey Web site, more than 530 people attended two public information hearings and some 2,000 submitted comments about the long-term project to widen Hwy. 20 between Cumming and Canton.

And that was just the first step of a multi-year public participation and planning effort that likely will conclude in 2018 with a final design.

Department spokeswoman Teri Pope said it’s the first environmental impact statement, or IES, in the district that requires a “whole other layer of involvement and community input.”

“They’re getting in on the design, on the front end,” she said. “It’s going to make for a better product when the users of the corridor are involved in the development.”

The statement is necessary due to the magnitude of the project, which would widen the entire 24-mile stretch.

The process began last year with the hiring of AECOM to conduct the study. Scott Gero, the firm’s senior engineer and project manager, said the results and detailed information from the public will have a direct impact.

Already, planners have learned of a cemetery in a residential neighborhood that did not show up in DOT research.

“People who are on that corridor every day know exactly what’s around them and the conditions of the area around them,” he said. “We can only get so much information from our typical studies, from engineers and scientists … Ultimately, the best eyes on the ground are the locals.”

In addition to tips and landmarks offered up by participants, the survey offers direct feedback on route preferences for specified areas along the corridor.

For example, Route A in the Cumming alignment, which would connect to Ga. 400 through Sawnee Drive, had the most “likes” with 534.

Only 204 people liked Route E, which would travel south of the existing path on Chamblee Gap Road. That option also garnered the most dislikes.

“We developed two more subalternates at the suggestion of some folks,” Gero said. “[We’ll] take a look at it and see if it passes analysis.”

Surveys also included preferences on bike routes, and facility and median types for the entire project.

Few respondents thought freeway or urban arterial styles were appropriate for the widening, with most preferring suburban arterial.

For medians, few wanted paved medians, with more preferring depressed and raised landscapes.

More people disapproved than approved of having adjacent bike lanes and sidewalks or bikeable shoulders, however the option of a multi-use path was more popular.

While some route possibilities were more popular, Gero said they’re all under consideration, even after commenting.

“We don’t want to throw anything out based on public opinion,” he said. “It’s good to know they didn’t like a particular alignment, but at this early stage that’s not going to throw it out.”

Gero said he doesn’t have a preference for a route yet, saying “my mission is to improve the congestion situation, improve mobility, improve safety … How we do it, I’m open to it. And I want it to fit into their community.”

At least three more public meetings will be held before 2018, when Gero hopes to have an approved plan. The next meeting likely will be in late spring or early summer.

“We’re really getting to know the property owners to understand their concerns and being able to go back to them with changes and ideas based on their input,” Pope said.

“We hope this tells the community how concerned we are, that we’re looking at this in a different way than we did in years past and we’re taking their input very seriously.”

 

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