Concerned residents turned out to The Bluffs this evening in the hundreds to voice their opinions about ongoing transportation projects in Cherokee County. After a 15-minute presentation by GDOT Commissioner Russell McMurry to the crowd, many standing in the conference room or seated in an overflow area, McMurry and State Senator Brandon Beach took questions from the public for the remainder of the hour.
While a handful of people expressed support for the project, including a woman living directly on Hwy 20 who looks forward to a convenient u-turn option and a construction contractor who hopes to snag a lucrative contract with GDOT for one section of the project, many expressed their opposition to the project.
While GDOT’s McMurry lauded the project as a way to invite “more businesses” and “more neighborhoods” to the area, many residents voiced their opposition to the highway precisely because it would encourage such rapid development. McMurry stated that GDOT’s plan was similar to SR92’s expansion in Woodstock, or SR347 in Hall County. So, it would look something like this, but even wider.
One resident spoke about his experience living in Woodstock before and after Hwy 92 was constructed. He remarked on the inconvenience of the construction itself, and lamented how the strip malls and apartment complexes along the highway forever changed the character of the area.
A high school students whose family has lived in Free Home for generations told us how his yard is littered with pink flags marking the right of way for the planned highway, which comes within feet of his grandmother’s front porch. Another resident, whose home is marked for “acquisition” (demolition) by GDOT to make room for the highway, said he has no plans to sell his property.
Despite the overwhelming opposition, we spoke to many people after the meeting who were feeling disheartened by the inevitability of the project, as it seemed like McMurry and Beach were more interested in arguing with than listening to residents’ concerns.
We at the Hwy 20 Community Alliance, however, recognize that this is just the beginning. Tonight, people were asking the right questions. Several rounds of applause for those speaking in opposition to the proposal show us that this project does not have community support. Now, we need to take that anger and turn it into something productive.
Here’s what YOU can do:
- Write or call your local representatives, whose contact information you can find here. Tell them that you don’t want a 6-lane highway in your backyard, or that you worry about rapid development changing the character of your community.
- Talk to your neighbors about GDOT’s plan. Many attendees at this evening’s meeting were surprised to learn that GDOT planned to make Hwy 20 SIX lanes, since all previous proposals had recommended four.
When GDOT initially approved this project, they said they would proceed with a six-lane highway unless they received “significant pushback” from the community.