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Coalition watching proposed Hwy. 20 widening

POSTED: May 4, 2014 12:05 a.m.
 

WEST FORYSTH — Involvement will be a key factor for residents of Lake Astoria and other Forsyth County subdivisions concerned about plans to widen Highway 20 between Cumming and Canton.

District 24 state Rep. Mark Hamilton encouraged those attending a meeting Wednesday night organized by the Highway 20 Coalition to get — and stay — involved in the Department of Transportation’s planning process.

“Tell your neighbors, tell your friends, tell your church friends ... everybody you know,” said Hamilton, a Republican from Cumming. “They will listen to you if you get involved.

“If you’re involved and make public comments, I’ll make sure those public comments are used in the process.”

In 2007, the DOT began planning to widen the major east-west road as three separate projects. Then last year, it scrapped that approach in favor of a single, regional project spanning the 24-mile stretch.

The DOT has held several public hearings to gather input on all aspects of the project, including its route, and nearly 2,000 people have submitted comments online.

DOT spokeswoman Teri Pope said those were the first of a multi-step public participation and planning effort that likely won’t culminate with a final design until 2018.

“All feedback is taken into account, then matched with engineering standards and federal environmental law to develop the best buildable plan for the community,” she said.

During the last public hearing, the department shared several possible routes, including widening the current road, going around the city of Cumming and building an entirely new road.

All possibilities, however, still must go through the environmental process to ensure they are viable.

However during the subdivision meeting Wednesday night, Hamilton said his personal preference would be to use Transportation System Management, or TSM. That plan is also preferred by the Highway 20 Coalition, as well as Rudy Bowen, who serves on the state transportation board.

TSM would essentially add necessities such as left turn lanes, passing lanes, intersection improvements and other smaller, more affordable projects to help alleviate the bottlenecks along the current two-lane highway.

Hamilton said with the lack of state transportation funding, TSM would be the most cost-effective method to help with traffic.

He encouraged residents to sign up for DOT newsletters so they can keep up with any updates and attend future public hearings.

He also noted that whatever option is chosen still will require federal approval.

“You’ve got to take an active role,” he said.  “Become more involved in the process ... and provide meaningful public input.”

The Cumming-Canton project is separate from the widening of 7.5 miles of Hwy. 20 east of Cumming, between Samples Road in Forsyth County and Peachtree Industrial Boulevard in Gwinnett County.

Parts of that project, which includes a new bridge over the Chattahoochee River, have begun.

 

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