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Work on road begins
Will be loud, but not long
downtown map closer
When complete, roadwork on Atlanta Road will allow two-way traffic, below, between it and Pilgrim Mill Road. Currently, the stretch of road between East Maple and East Main streets is one way. - photo by Illustration/Joe Miller
Anyone who has traveled south on Pilgrim Mill Road into downtown Cumming knows it’s not a straight shot through the city.

For the past couple decades, southbound traffic has had to circle around the city’s downtown to get through it.

Within the next two weeks, however, work will begin to turn Pilgrim Mill/Atlanta Road into a two-way street through downtown.

“This is going to take a lot of the congestion out from the middle of town,” said Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt. “It used to be a two-way street and the DOT changed it about 25 years ago. And we’ve been trying to get it changed back ... because we’ve had so many accidents [there].”

Gravitt said the project likely will be completed in December, though work has already begun — on his property.

Between Tuesday and Wednesday, the city tore down and cleared two buildings on property the mayor owns across the street from Dairy Queen.

The buildings, both vacated recently, had housed various tenants over the years, including a window tinting business and a party planning store.

“We’ve got to have room for progress and so we’re making room for progress,” said Gravitt of the property he’s owned for about two decades.

“Anything to improve the traffic flow is what we’re trying to do.”

Gravitt signed an easement with the city allowing construction to begin, though the sides have not determined a price or how much of the land will be needed for construction.

The mayor said he couldn’t recall what the city’s appraised value was for his property.

“I think it was about half of what the county paid for the property up there on the corner where the ... Classic’s grill was,” he said.

The county bought Classic’s Neighborhood Pub for $712,500 in 2007 and has since converted it into a parking lot.

City Administrator Gerald Blackburn said the city also is working with a handful of other property owners to acquire land for the road project, a continuation of a 2007-08 effort that widened Pilgrim Mill from Main Street to Ga. 400.

The $885,000 project is being funded through money from a previous 1-cent sales tax, SPLOST V.

Blackburn said the project will add a fourth lane between East Maple Street and Pirkle Ferry Road/East Main Street. The additional lane will allow travelers to head south in addition to the current northbound lane and two northbound turning lanes.

The construction process “will be loud, but not long,” Blackburn said.

Contractor Merritt Construction will begin by adding the right lane on the east side of the highway.

This will slow traffic, but won’t stop it, Blackburn said. The blockage should be minimal, and mostly when the lane lines are shifted. Construction is expected to begin in a week or two.

If the project goes well, said Blackburn, the Pilgrim Mill/Atlanta Road corridor is “going to be the main entrance into the city.”

Currently, motorists traveling into town on Pilgrim Mill must turn onto East Main Street, left onto Veterans Memorial Boulevard, left onto East Maple Street and right back onto Atlanta Road to go south through downtown Cumming.

While both East Maple Street and Pirkle Ferry Road/East Main Street will remain one way, there will be traffic signals where each intersects Pilgrim Mill/Atlanta Road.

Sidewalks will also be added to the east side of the road and existing sidewalks will be widened on the west side. Construction will also allow southbound travelers to turn left onto East Maple Street toward Ga. 400.

The project also calls for a new left turn lane to be added to Pirkle Ferry Road, allowing motorists to turn south onto Atlanta Road (Hwy. 9).

East Main Street will have three lanes between Pilgrim Mill/Atlanta Road and Veterans Memorial Blvd.

Motorists will no longer be able to turn left from Pilgrim Mill onto School Street, however an additional right turn lane will be added to allow turns onto East Main Street.

E-mail Jennifer Sami at