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Options narrowed for improving Hwy. 20 between Cumming, Canton
Hwy 20 Canton-Cumming alternatives

CUMMING — The options for improving the Hwy. 20 corridor between Cumming and Canton have been narrowed from six to three, according to state transportation officials.

In making the announcement, the Georgia Department of Transportation described the remaining possibilities as a “reasonable range,” though an exact explanation of what they are remains unclear.

The heavily traveled expanse of Hwy. 20 from Interstate-575 in Canton to Ga. 400 in Cumming is a major east-west thoroughfare for the northern edge of metro Atlanta. For years, the route has stirred concerns from residents and the commuting public over “congestion, limited mobility and safety issues.”

In a statement, DOT Commissioner Russell R. McMurry explained that an analysis of “all the alternatives had to be conducted against criteria that avoids or minimizes impacts to the environment, historically eligible features and the community.”

“The result of the analysis eliminated the northern and southern alternatives under what we’ve called the Screen 2 analysis,” he said. “The Federal Highway Administration has concurred.”

Performance, cost, environmental and community impacts and stakeholder input were taken into consideration.

According to Teri Pope, a spokeswoman for the agency, the nixed northern/southern alternatives involved building a new route on either side of the existing highway to draw vehicles away from it.

“They were eliminated due to the high costs associated with constructing new roadways on new right of way and not adequately addressing the need and purpose of the project,” Pope said.

Still in the running is the choice to simply leave Hwy. 20 as is.

The DOT could also choose to widen the existing road, providing additional through-lanes combined with spot improvements. Those might include optimizing and coordinating traffic signals, implementing intelligent transportation systems and improving intersections.

The third and most involved remaining alternative is a combination of the widening project and creating localized bypasses around more heavily developed segments, including Cumming, Ducktown, Lathemtown, Macedonia, Buffington and Canton.

Also crossed off the list were the options to only perform spot improvements or to combine the widening and localized bypass projects with designating other existing routes — Hwy. 369 or Bethelview Road — as Hwy. 20.

The next step in the process is a more detailed analysis of the three remaining options.

Pope said the state agency plans to hold two public meetings — one in Forsyth County and the other in Cherokee — to gather public feedback. The times and dates have not been determined.

Actual construction may still be a few years away, however.

This Cumming-Canton project is 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.

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

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

Under federal law, an environmental impact statement is the highest level environmental process, and it must be completed for the entire corridor before any segment can advance.

Identifying and minimizing impact to historic resources, streams, wetlands and any other natural, social and physical environments all must be considered.

Commissioner McMurry said the “remainder of the environmental process could take as long as two years.”