In December 2015, GDOT
secured state funding through the The Transportation Funding Act of 2015 to widen the existing Hwy 20 between Canton and Cumming, with construction scheduled to begin in July 2018. Disregarding studies that concluded that a mix of 4-lane and 6-lane roadway was needed to accommodate residential and commercial traffic by the year 2045, GDOT decided to proceed with a 6-lane highway for the entire stretch unless the community provides significant pushback. The speed limit will remain the same as the current posted limits, ranging from 45 to 55 MPH. The total budget for the project will be approximately $315 million, and construction is projected to be completed in phases by 2020.
The following are screen shots taken from a video
provided by GDOT.
The required right-of-way, which falls between the red lines, will be 220 to 250 feet wide. Red dots represent homes and businesses that will be demolished because they are in the path of the highway. Here, on the right, you see that the right of way cuts through a cemetery, outlined in yellow to designate that the property is of historic significance.
No light is currently planned at Hwy 20 and Cherokee Veterans Park, so drivers wanting turn east towards Cumming will have to turn right and do a u-turn. A 10′ wide walking path is also planned to run between Cherokee Veterans Park and Smythwick Creek, though it is only accessible on the north side of the road.
The red dot on the right represents Macedonia Baptist Church, which is one of three churches that will be demolished by GDOT. Notice also the cemetery on the left. Hwy 20 will be 8 lanes wide at the intersection of E. Cherokee.
Without lights to protect left turns, residents of subdivisions along Hwy 20 will have to turn right and do a u-turn across 3 lanes of traffic in order to go left.
No light is currently planned at the intersection of Hwy 20 and SR 369 (Hightower Rd), meaning that vehicles traveling north onto 369 will have double turn lanes with an unprotected left turn across 3 lanes of oncoming traffic. This is already a high accident area. The bump-out on the right is a turn-around for tractor trailers and school buses.
No light is currently planned at the intersection of Hwy 20 and Old Mill Rd, meaning that vehicles turning off of Old Mill will have an unprotected left turn onto Hwy 20 and those going straight will have to cross 8 lanes of traffic. This intersection receives a lot of after school traffic, so many of our high school-aged kids will be making these turns.
Through Lathemtown, where GDOT’s traffic studies recommended 4 lanes, many homes and businesses will be demolished to accommodate the 6-lane highway. The building on the left is the Cherokee Market, the site of the historic W.A. Lathem General Store, and will have a highway at its front door.
At Holbrook Campground Rd, Hwy 20 will be 9 lanes across. Please note the two left-hand turn lanes eastbound in anticipation of development north of Hwy 20. This area is very likely to be rezoned for dense commercial development.
In Forsyth County, Hwy 20 will veer slightly off of its existing roadway and cut through many existing homes, including the designated historic property at the top center of this photo.
The project will cross several significant waterways and require the filling of wetlands in both Cherokee and Forsyth Counties. Because GDOT is not receiving federal funds for the project, they are not required to do an environmental impact assessment. Building roads over existing waterways could have negative environmental effects.
Complicated left turn lanes are intended to provide turn-arounds for school buses, tractor trailers, and larger vehicles, but may confuse drivers and result in accidents. Here, a double left-hand turn lane allows westbound drivers to do a u-turn or turn south onto Sunrise Circle, but only if they’re in the correct lane.
Beginning at the Spot Rd Connector, another 10′ wide walking path is planned, this time only accessible for those on the south side of the highway. At this intersection, as at Holbrook Campground Rd, Hwy 20 is 9 lanes wide.
On the easternmost portion of the project, just before reaching N. Corners Pkwy, Hwy 20 is reduced to 4 lanes. If 4 lanes is an appropriate size on the outskirts of Cumming, why are 6 lanes needed in areas with less residential and commercial development?