In the past decades, GDOT has repeatedly proposed a so-called “Northern Arc” or Outer Perimeter project to redirect the most dangerous tractor-trailer traffic north from congested I-285 in Atlanta. Each of these proposals has been defeated through community opposition and budget constraints.

The current GDOT proposal to widen Hwy 20 between Canton and Cumming is part a new Northern Arc project, being sold to the public as a way to alleviate commuter traffic. 

In 2016, AECOM, an engineering design firm hired by GDOT, made a recommendation that the roadway between Canton and Cumming be widened to a mix of 4- and 6-lane highway in order to meet local traffic need projections through the year 2045.

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GDOT’s own Fatal Flaw Strategy Screen Technical Document from 2013 shows that “Transportation System Management,” which includes technical improvements such as straightening dangerous curves, adding turn lanes, and reconfiguring the timing of traffic signals, “meets” or “exceeds” all but one of GDOT’s objectives for accommodating local traffic for the long term.

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Why, then, is GDOT planning to build a 6-lane highway from Canton to Cumming?

According to the 2016 update of the Atlanta Regional Freight Mobility Plan, SR 20 has been identified as a long-term freight route. Providing more efficient connections with SR155 and SR81 in Henry County was deemed in this report to be a long-term priority in order to “construct by-pass around city” for freight traffic en route from Savannah to I-75 North, as shown in excerpt from the document itself:

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Portions of Hwy 20 have already been widened in parts of Forsyth and Gwinnett, as well as through much of Walton County. The final section of the Northern Arc from Cumming to I-75N in Bartow County is currently in the project design phase as a separate project.

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Constructing an efficient tractor-trailer bypass around Atlanta is ever more important, as the dredging of the Port of Savannah currently underway is expected to increase freight traffic traveling on interstates and highways across the state of Georgia. The new Northern Arc project has been proposed–and fully funded by the state of Georgia–so that this new tractor-trailer traffic will pass through our communities instead of the city of Atlanta. An increase in tractor-trailer traffic on Hwy 20 coupled with Georgia’s lax safety requirements for freight operators in the state mean that this new Northern Arc will bring not only inconvenience, but unsafe driving conditions to our communities.

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Freight leaving Savannah by road is expected to increase significantly in the coming years. Photo by John Carrington, AJC