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Plans narrow for Canton Hwy. widening in west Forsyth
Design leaning toward expanding existing road
4PRINT-six-lanes WEB
A steady stream of people came through the doors at Otwell Middle School on Tuesday looking at plans for the widening of Canton Highway. - photo by Jim Dean

WEST FORSYTH -- Local residents had a chance to check out construction plans for one of Forsyth County’s major roads this week.

On Tuesday evening, the consolation team for the widening of the Canton Highway (Hwy. 20 west) held a public meeting at Otwell Middle School to give information and receive feedback from the public for the widening of the road along its existing route from I-575 in Canton to Ga. 400 in Cumming.

“We’re holding this public meeting to update the public on the project corridor,” said Nicole Law, project manager. “When we came before, we were showing multiple designs for bypasses and from that last meeting, the public said consistently that they wanted to widen along [the] existing [road].”

Among the largest of the proposed changes are the widening of the road to six lanes, the re-routing of certain roads and the removal of many left turns in favor of R-cuts, which Law said are safer than the alternative.

An R-cut, also called a Michigan left, is a design requiring going straight or making right turns at intersections, meaning those turning left will first make a right before going to a designated U-turn.

“I would think the most major thing that stands out for a lot of people is the R-cuts because that’s new,” Law said. “For most of the area, you have to go out of where you’re coming from, a residence or a business, make a right turn and then go up to an R-cut to make that left.”

The plan had previously proposed re-routes around downtown Cumming, which Law said were dropped after input from the community.

Law said she heard mainly positive feedback, especially for widening on the current route, from the community on Tuesday and that information gathered from the public would be considered for the future plan.

“We’re in the design phase, so none of this is hard stone; this is why we came to the public,” she said. “We’ll come back out to the public in the spring with our final design.”

She said surveyors are still working and that right-of-way purchase will begin in 2017. The project will be bid out in portions in 2018 and 2019.

Previously, officials have said construction could start in 2022, with designs targeting growth projections for 2045.

Another public input meeting will be held from 5-7 p.m. on Dec. 15 at Calvary Baptist Church in Ball Ground.

The event featured several TVs showing how the new road may look in existing areas, maps of the plan and employees on hand to discuss the project, answer questions and take notes.

“I really liked the way everything is displayed,” resident Silvia Hitchcock said. “It’s very easy to see how the roads are going to go. It’s very easy to follow. They’ve done a great job as far as having the video you can watch and being able to see and look.”

Hitchcock attended with her husband, Mark, who said the couple own a business in Forsyth and wanted to know how they may be impacted.

Jeff Blalock, a member of the Ducktown Masonic Lodge, said he wanted to know how the project may affect the nearby building, which will not be affected by the widening. A pair of gas stations across the road will have a different fate.

“I just wanted to see how we fit in the plan,” Blalock said. “Actually, they’re getting the gas stations on the other side of the road from us, which would be fortunate in our favor.”

Blalock said the road is past due for a facelift.

“[Hwy.] 20, it’s way behind times. We need better roads,” he said. “If we have this many people in the county living here, we need to be able to move them around.”

A copy of the plan and a chance to give public input is available at Dot.ga.gov/BS/Projects/SpecialProjects/SR20Improvements.