Today is the last day to submit your questions and comments to GDOT regarding their proposed widening of Hwy 20 between Canton and Cumming following their most recent Open House. All residents who participate in the comment period by the end of the day today (May 30) will receive a written response from GDOT. Comments submitted after today may not be considered.

If you haven’t yet had your voice heard, this is your chance! Here is the link to the online form. You may also email Eric Duff, Environmental Administrator, directly, if the form doesn’t work for you: eduff@dot.ga.gov.

Here is what I personally submitted to GDOT:

As a resident of one of the communities along Hwy 20, I am extremely disappointed in the lack of responsiveness from GDOT regarding their proposed plan for SR20 between Canton and Cumming. Many members of my community, myself included, have contacted GDOT representatives and our local politicians countless times to express our opposition to the 6 lane plan, and the response from GDOT was to shift the alignment of the road to preserve a subdivision sign and some parking spots at a church, to add a turn lane into a church, to approve a traffic signal for a new strip mall near Canton, and to change the design of two major intersections to eliminate left-hand turn lanes. These proposed “major” changes do not begin to address the well-founded concerns that I and others in my community have.

1. Studies show that widening existing roads does not decrease traffic congestion in the long term, as any benefit gained from widening the road is lost within 5 years of completion due to induced demand. Indeed, your own studies show that widening SR20 to 6 lanes would increase traffic by up to 62% by 2045 versus the “no build” option. What evidence do you have that this project, which is being sold as a way to alleviate traffic congestion will actually reduce traffic congestion through 2045?

2. GDOT representatives at the most recent PIOH displayed photos of nicely landscaped grass medians with azaleas and crepe myrtles. However, in my communications with Nicole Law, the former project manager, and Russell McMurry at the open house at the Bluffs on February 27, I have been told that “GDOT only does concrete” and that any landscaping is the responsibility of the city, county, or other municipal organization to fund, plant, and maintain any non-concrete median. They previously pointed to SR92 in Woodstock (which has a fake brick look median) as their design example. Has this plan changed, or is GDOT giving the false impression to residents that the median will be landscaped?

3. Traffic studies show that the eastern-most end of the corridor has the highest daily traffic counts, with more than 3 times the daily traffic at N. Corners Parkway than at the intersections of Hightower Rd or Post Rd. Why, then, at the section with the MOST traffic does the current design reduce the number of lanes from 6 to 4? Is there a plan for a bypass that would alleviate traffic bottleneck at Sawnee Dr, where the road narrows to 4 lanes? You state that you hope traffic will be diverted south onto Bethelview Rd or Post Rd (which you plan to eventually widen, it seems), but what evidence do you have that supports that claim?

4. AECOM recommended, based on traffic projections, that the road be widened at a maximum to 6 lanes between Scott Rd and SR369, 4 lanes between SR369 and Post Rd, and 6 lanes again between Post Rd and N. Corners Pkwy. Why, then, have you decided to make it 6 lanes in the Lathemtown/Ducktown section (SR369 to Post Rd), against the recommendations of your own traffic engineers? What evidence do you have that this is necessary?

5. Why, in the most recent proposed changes, did you narrow the lane width from 12′ to 11′? The Federal Highway Administration states that an 11′ lane increases the incidence of sideswipe and run-off-the-road accidents by 5% with speeds of 45 MPH and above. For those of us using this road every day to take our children to school or to get to work ourselves, that 5% increase could be fatal.

6. Have you evaluated the safety of the RCUT design for school buses traveling Hwy 20 to and from Sawnee Elementary, Free Home Elementary, Macedonia Elementary, and the various Middle and High schools that whose buses may have to cross the highway? Are school buses able to do u-turns at all RCUT intersections, or only those with an extra “bump” on the shoulder of the road? Will drivers with horse trailers or other oversized vehicles be able to make these turns, or only at designated RCUTs?

7. I am concerned by efforts made by GDOT to remove traffic signals from SR316 in order to raise the speed limit, and by the current speed limit of 65MPH on stretches of SR400 north of Cumming that have the same apparent design as you have proposed for this stretch of SR20. Can you guarantee that the speed limits between Canton and Cumming will remain as they currently are (45-55MPH) and that GDOT will not raise the speed limit in the future?

8. Looking at your Fatal Flaw Strategy Screen Technical Memorandum from 2013, your analysis states that “transportation systems management” satisfies (“meets”) all requirements for safety and traffic congestion improvements through the year 2045. The only requirement this approach “does not meet” is literally defined as adding extra lanes. Have you considered, since scrapping the Federal project in 2013, revisiting the no build or technical improvements/transportation systems management options?

9. Your environmental review process will require permitting approval from the Army Corps of Engineers for the filling of wetlands, crossing of waterways, and use of environmentally or culturally sensitive lands in both Cherokee and Forsyth. Have you begun this process? What sections of the road will require permitting?

10. SB183 (2017), Section 2(D) lines 81-84, exempts any state-funded project that widens an existing road for the purpose of economic development or traffic congestion alleviation from seeking competitive bids for construction. Given that this project meets that definition, will GDOT be foregoing the competitive bid process on this project? If so, how will GDOT ensure that the companies receiving contracts are paid a reasonable amount and that millions of dollars in tax revenue are not wasted?

11. How has GDOT formulated their traffic projections through the year 2045? What percent growth in population is factored into these traffic projections, and do they match with the population growth pattern of the affected area rather than Forsyth and Cherokee Counties in general? What other underlying assumptions–such as the existence of a 6-lane highway–are made in formulating these traffic projections?

12. Finally, I am very concerned that the design of this project will dramatically increase the amount of tractor-trailer traffic speeding through our community. With the completion of this road, SR20 will be widened to 4-6 lanes all the way from I-75 near McDonough to I-575 in Canton, providing an outer loop alternative for freight traffic coming from Savannah en route to I-75N. With the completion of the proposed link between I-575 in Canton and I-75 in Bartow County, this route would likely become the preferred arc for tractor-trailers and regional travelers seeking to avoid the congestion in and around the city of Atlanta. If this project were truly intended to alleviate traffic congestion between Canton and Cumming, there would be no need to continue the 4-6 lane plan between Canton and I-75 in Bartow County. Several design elements of the road, including the use of RCUTs and other restricted left-turn features, indicates that this project is NOT being built for the benefit of local residents, but for through traffic headed to and from I-75.

While I understand the need to make improvements to SR20 to accommodate current and future growth and to improve safety along the corridor. However, I do not believe that the 6-lane design is necessary, nor that it will alleviate congestion or improve safety as GDOT claims.

Thank you for your consideration of the above issues, and for your responses to the concerns of other residents and business owners in the affected communities.

Sincerely,
Justine Chapman

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