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DOT shares options for improving Hwy. 20 west of Cumming
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CUMMING — Maps lined the cafeteria of Otwell Middle School on Thursday as residents reviewed the remaining proposed designs for the long-awaited Hwy. 20 improvement project.

The state Department of Transportation held the open house to present the results of its analysis of ways to improve the 24-mile stretch of the corridor between Interstate 575 in Canton and Ga. 400 in Cumming.

Included in the information was an explanation of the alternatives no longer under consideration and reviews of those recommended for additional study. Officials also gathered feedback.

The route, a major east-west thoroughfare for the northern edge of metro Atlanta, has stirred concerns from residents and the commuting public over “congestion, limited mobility and safety issues.”

According to Karlene Barron, a DOT communications director, there are two viable options left for improving the heavily traveled expanse.

Either the existing road can be expanded or that widening will accompany the creation of localized bypasses around more heavily developed segments.

There are also five options for the Cumming bypass segment, the most dense and heavily populated expanse along the route.

All of the options will be examined more in depth to analyze historical, environmental and community impacts.

“We live on Hwy. 20, and [one of the alternatives] would almost go right through our property,” said Atwood Ledbetter. “We live five miles out of town, and it took us 30 minutes to get here.”

Two of the alternatives affect Van Leblanc’s property. She said she wants the road widened without the Cumming bypass.

“If you don’t want traffic, go to Montana,” said Leblanc’s adult son, Christopher. “Nobody wants [the bypasses]. But then people fuss over the traffic.”

Barron said each alternative is being looked at based on how it would improve mobility, reduce congestion and improve safety.

“We want to find what will be the best benefit for the community, no matter what that ends up being,” she said.

The process of improving the corridor began in 2007, when the DOT announced a plan to widen Hwy. 20 that included three separate projects the begin as federal funding became available.

Six years later, that approach was nixed in favor of a single, regional project spanning the 24-mile stretch.

This round of open houses — one was also held Tuesday in Cherokee County — marked the third round of public meetings on the issue since 2013.

The process is far from over. Barron said construction could start in 2022.

“We’re designing for 2045 to ensure it will last for 20 years after it goes out there,” Barron said.

After deeper examination, alternatives will continue to be narrowed down and brought back to the community for feedback.

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

That effort, which includes new bridges over the Chattahoochee River, is well under way.