Opinions were all over the map Thursday during an open house on plans to widen Hwy. 20 between Canton and Cumming.
The event, organized by the state Department of Transportation, was the second of the week on the proposal. A similar gathering was held Tuesday in Ball Ground.
About 300 people came by Otwell Middle School in Cumming to inspect the possible routes for the widening. They could drop off comments, talk with engineers involved in the project and learn about the impact of the various options.
Teri Pope, department spokeswoman, said the possibilities include widening the existing Hwy. 20 or doing so while adding bypasses for congested and historic areas.
There’s also the suggestion of rerouting the road completely, as well as two options that would take the road either north or south of its current path.
Regardless of which route is selected for the 24-mile stretch of highway, it likely will be at least 2022 by the time right of way is secured and the roadwork completed. And that’s provided that funding is available.
More engineering work, public input and an environmental study still need to be finished before any further steps can be taken.
“We are progressively getting more input,” Pope said.
Not all of that input is positive. For example, west Forsyth resident Fran Peters isn’t having any of the options, saying she’s “totally against it.”
“We don’t want a four-lane, six-lane highway coming through our beautiful pasture land, our farmland,” she said. “We moved out here to be in a nice ... countryside and we don’t want to see a 400-foot scar across the country.”
Peters’ suggestion is to forget Hwy. 20 and widen Hwy. 369. But Pope said it’s not an either-or situation, noting a project to widen Hwy. 369 awaits funding.
Dolores Shadburn said she didn’t like the alternative that cuts south of the existing Hwy. 20, west of Hwy. 9.
“It comes right through our property,” she said. “We’ve been there 40-something years. We make our living off our land.
“I don’t want the traffic coming through Cumming either.”
The comments made by Peters and Shadburn echo a familiar refrain. Pope said the majority of people have been in support of easing congestion along Hwy. 20, as long as it doesn’t impact their property.
Bob Banker, however, seemed to be in favor of widening the current road.
“It’s already there, so it disturbs the fewest people,” he said. “I’m concerned about the businesses on Hwy. 20, but somebody said they wouldn’t be impacted that much.”
Since two public meetings were held in May, the DOT has received more than 650 comments, with more than 2,400 visitors to the project’s web page.
According to Pope, those numbers are unheard of for engineering projects.“That’s amazing response on any road project,” she said.
Because of the interest and the holiday season, Pope said the deadline to comment on the most recent maps has been extended to Jan. 10.