A Forsyth County resident is taking no chances with the Georgia Department of Transportation.
Jeff Anderson, founder and chairman of the Northern Arc Task Force, voiced his concerns about the possible revival of the controversial east-west connector through a recent advertisement in the Forsyth County News.
The ad, which also appeared in other state newspapers, contends a project in northwest Georgia could be the excuse the DOT has been waiting for to restart the project, which was thought to have been killed years earlier.
“Georgia DOT is hell-bent to build the wrong route and you’ve got to start asking the rhetorical questions right now, before it gets too far down the road,” Anderson said.
But David Doss, who represents District 11 on the state transportation board, said Anderson's accusation is unfounded.
“Jeff Anderson is just totally wrong on this matter,” he said. “It is just bizarre to me that Jeff Anderson wants to come out of the woodworks and try to resurrect a controversy that doesn’t exist. This is not the Northern Arc.”
The arc, a proposed route that would connect Interstates 75 and 85 on the far north side of metro Atlanta, perhaps passing through Forsyth, hasn’t surfaced since 2007.
Still, Anderson points to the 411 Connector, which will provide a more direct route from Floyd County to I-75 in Bartow County. As recently as 2003, the project was part of the Northern Arc.
Doss, however, counters that the plan is independent of any other road project and this time has nothing to do with the Northern Arc.
But Anderson argues the plan the DOT is moving forward with is “longer and more expensive” than the original 411 route dating back more than 20 years ago.
Moreover, the projected path connects 411 with I-75 at Hwy. 20, which is part of the old Northern Arc route.
“And it follows basically the old Northern Arc route [to Hwy. 20]," he said. "That’s the route that they’re pushing now.”
There are several 411 Connector options listed in a 2008 DOT project summary. Cost estimates vary from $175 million to $200 million.
According to the concept evaluation, the projected path the department is backing would attract “larger volumes of traffic and provide substantial relief to the existing U.S. 411/I-75 connection.”
The route Anderson prefers is no longer under consideration.
It is the third time the 411 Connector project has surfaced, Doss said, after failing years ago in a federal lawsuit and again in 2003.
He said Gov. Sonny Perdue in his first month in office "killed the Northern Arc, and in doing so, he killed the 411 Connector.”
Doss said the third time’s going to be the charm, with the DOT and consulting group “dotting every ‘i’ and crossing every ‘t.’”
If an east-west connector could ever be funded, Doss said, the alignment would likely be “clearly north of Hwy. 20.”
Anderson’s task force helped sway Perdue seven years ago. It’s a task he’s willing to undertake again.
His advertisement states: “The Northern Arc Task Force will move swiftly to block it once again -- and hold accountable those politicians and public officials who enable GDOT’s recklessness.”
Anderson’s solution — widen Hwy. 20.
“It’s almost a too obvious choice,” he said. “It should have been done 20 years ago and we’re still talking about east-west connectivity.”
But Anderson’s solution could be someone else’s problem, as Hwy. 20 widening speculation has resulted in community backlash, including a group of homeowners who formed Save Kelly Mill.
For Doss, it’s simply the logistics of Hwy. 20 that wouldn’t work as part of any east-west connector.
“[Hwy.] 20 wont handle the traffic that it has now,” he said. “I know the DOT has some projects programmed for [Hwy.] 20, but that is only to try to come close to handling the capacity that it needs for the existing traffic.”
But east/west connectivity will happen, he said.
He and several other DOT board members view it as "probably the single most important road project in this state ... critical for this state to remain economically competitive.”