At the Monday night meeting with State Senator Brandon Beach and GDOT Commissioner Russell McMurry, several local residents questioned GDOT’s reasoning for breaking the Hwy 20 expansion project into 6 separate sections for construction. McMurry says it was done for expediency and efficiency, which is partially true.
Per SB 346 (2015), sponsored by Senator Beach himself, all GDOT projects with a budget of less than $100 million are exempt from environmental regulations. The only condition under which they are required to do environmental studies–including studies of water, air, and noise pollution, or the project’s adverse effect on the physical environment–is when it “is probable to expect significant adverse impact on historical sites or buildings and cultural resources.” With the definition of “significant adverse impact” left to the discretion of politicians and transportation engineers whose lives will not be affected by the project, it is safe to say that the expansion of Hwy 20 does not meet this definition.
So why break it into 6 separate projects?
The total project budget between Scott Rd. in Canton and N. Corners Parkway in Cumming is over $313 million. If it were completed as one project, it would be subject to environmental laws and GDOT would be required to study and possibly mitigate the environmental harm the project would do to our community.
THAT is what Russell McMurry means when he says that breaking it into 6 projects makes it more efficient. Incidentally, it also makes it less safe for those of us most immediately affected by the project.
If you have a problem with GDOT skipping over the environmental study process, contact GDOT to let them know.
Russell McMurry, GDOT Commissioner
DeWayne Comer, District 6 Engineer (Cherokee)
Brent Cook, District 1 Engineer (Forsyth)
Jeff Lewis, GA State Transportation Board (District 11, Cherokee)
Emily Dunn, GA State Transportation Board (District 9, Forsyth)