Castleberry Road widening project OK’d

Homeowners say other roads should be considered instead

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CUMMING, Ga. — The issue of widening Castleberry Road gained new traction last week when the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners approved to move forward with the project with design and bid.

Commissioners Todd Levent and Jim Boff were opposed.

Levent and Boff had asked for additional traffic studies and a safer two-lane road.

Chairman Pete Amos and Commissioners Brian Tam and Cindy Jones Mills voted to move forward with the design and to put the project out to bid.

“Where in the world are you getting money to put this out to bid?” Levent asked.

Tam said that necessary funding for the three-mile stretch would come from special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) but to kick start the project, the county will use a $1 million state transportation grant.

Widening Castleberry Road, which could cost up to $22 million, has long been a source of contention in the county.

Since 2003, some Forsyth County Commissioners have wanted to widen Castleberry Road to a four-lane road from a two-lane road.

Voters also approved the widening as part of the of the special purpose local option sales tax (SPLOST) in March 2003.

Opposition from Levent and his constituents had not wavered, calling for the widening of other county roads first.

Levent was able to place the issue on hold on November 2012 while he proposed a “safer two-lane” alternative and additional traffic studies.

Ron Eastman, who moved to the Creekside Subdivision off Castleberry Road in January, said he was surprised once he found out about the road widening to four lanes of traffic.

“I was confused and taken back as to why,” Eastman said. “I felt very confident it was not a high traffic area. I was shocked that people were thinking of widening a road that there’s not a lot of traffic.”

Another resident, Bradford Jameson, who lives in the Manor at Kingswood, said he doesn’t want the road widened because he loves the rural aspect of Castleberry Road.

“Forsyth County is quickly getting paved over,” Jameson said. “I don’t know that the public has a voice in this decision.”

Other residents said that economic development is the county’s focus, not the area’s traffic. A resident proposed lowering the speed limit on Castleberry Road and installing sidewalks and bike paths, instead.

At the Feb. 6 regular commission meeting, Rep. Mark Hamilton along with Sens. Jack Murphy and Steve Gooch presented the county with a $1 million dollar check from the Ga. Department of Transportation to assist in the widening of Castleberry Road.

But traffic studies show the area’s growth will not be able to sustain low traffic.

Chairman Amos said that Bethelview Road, a Castleberry cross street, is on schedule to be widened and completed by 2017.

Forsyth County road engineering data shows that there are about 11 developments unbuilt or partly built along Castleberry Road, according to the traffic consulting firm Gresham, Smith and Partners in 2011.

The proposed developments, as projected, could generate nearly 7,000 additional trips to Castleberry Road between now and 2021, the study states.

Even if none of the projects are built, the road will be at its threshold capacity of 14,900 by the year 2029, the study by Gresham, Smith and Partners stated.