CUMMING, Ga. — On Thursday, May 16, residents of Cumming and Canton let the Georgia Department of Transportation know their vision for improvements to Ga. Highway 20.
GDOT is looking to improve about 25 miles of the highway stretching from Ga. 400 to Interstate 575, and residents were asked to participate in an interactive survey that included viewing maps of the area and noting directly on the maps their comments and concerns.
Teri Pope, a spokeswoman for GDOT, said traffic congestion on and around Ga. 20 has already reached an unacceptable level, but in 20 years, will be over 200 percent worse.
“Something needs to be done to improve traffic times in the future and for that to happen, we have to start the process now,” Pope said.
Pope said the process is long and actual construction wouldn’t begin until about 2020.
“We won’t even know what kind of funding we’ll have until 2019,” Pope said.
Community input isn’t the only determining factor GDOT will consider for Ga. 20 improvements.
The project also needs to abide by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which takes into account things like wildlife and the impact of the road improvements to the surrounding area, Pope said.
Forsyth County residents have mixed opinions about potential improvements.
Resident Bob Buck lives off of Ga. 20 near downtown Cumming.
“The traffic through downtown is terrible,” Buck said. “I’d like to see some kind of bypass created to reduce the congestion.”
Tobie White, Forsyth County Schools Transportation Department lead driver, isn’t concerned with the outcome just yet.
“I’m worried about what the construction will do to bus routes,” she said.
White said congestion is already a problem for several bus drivers, especially those with multiple routes.
“We’re going to have to figure out alternate routes to accommodate the additional congestion due to construction so we can make sure kids get to school on time, and this will take a lot of planning,” White said.
Construction on Ga. 20 is already a problem for Twist in Time Consignment owner Cindy Adams.
“Work is being done right near my store and it’s already a problem,” she said. “I’m afraid it’s going to negatively impact my business and I’m wondering how this construction fits in with future plans and why they’re doing it now.”
While looking at the maps, Cumming resident Jack Sylvester experienced deja vu.
“This feels to me like the potential rerouting of Highway 20 the county looked into a few years ago,” he said.
Sylvester said plans to create a new roadway between Chamblee Gap Road and Veterans Memorial Boulevard were scrapped because of resident discord.
“Several subdivisions in the area went to the county meetings and complained and the plans were cut,” he said.
Sylvester said the county is looking for a reason to reroute the highway to alleviate congestion around the downtown area.
“The current congestion, which will increase with the new jail and government buildings, is a result of poor planning by city officials,” he said. “And now they’re looking to use federal funding as a means to fix the problems they’ve caused instead of using county money.”
GDOT also offers the online survey to residents who couldn’t attend the meeting.
“We’d really like as many people as possible to provide input for improvements to Highway 20,” she said. “We want to create a solution that meets the needs of the community and if people fill out this survey, we’ll be able to do that.”
Pope said details about the project and the survey to provide input are available online at http://sr20.metroquest.com.
The next interactive public meeting is scheduled from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. May 21 at Calvary Baptist Church, 137 Hightower Road in Ball Ground.