GDOT’s pro­posed truck route to loop across Ten­nessee line

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - REGION - BY BEN BEN­TON STAFF WRITER

The Ge­or­gia De­part­ment of Trans­porta­tion’s pro­posed twolane McCaysville/Cop­per­hill truck route project in Fan­nin County would cross the state line into Ten­nessee.

The pro­posed $43.4 mil­lion project seeks to ad­dress the “ever-in­creas­ing need to im­prove the flow of traf­fic in the cor­ri­dor’s area, truck traf­fic in par­tic­u­lar,” GDOT spokesman Mo­hamed Arafa said. Of­fi­cials be­lieve the plan will im­prove safety, re­duce crashes and even en­hance eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment in the area, he added.

Arafa said he was un­aware of any other Ge­or­gia road project that crossed Ten­nessee or Alabama state lines, and he was un­able to find any other state line-cross­ing projects in the rest of the state.

Other of­fi­cials also agree the pro­posed two-state project is un­usual.

The main ob­sta­cle the pro­posed route seeks to solve is in down­town McCaysville/Cop­per­hill, where Ge­or­gia State Route 5 dead-ends into Ten­nessee High­way 68 in an in­ter­sec­tion nearly atop the state line that forces big rigs to hang a hard left go­ing north or a hard right go­ing south in close quar­ters with lo­cal traf­fic and down­town busi­nesses.

The snag would be ad­dressed with large round­abouts on each end of a new two-lane road that would al­low truck traf­fic to take the new route around the towns and lo­cal traf­fic to take the usual way, plans show. The pro­posed im­prove­ments be­gin south of McCaysville around Old Flow­ers Road and con­tinue north into town in the area of School Street and First Street, where the south­ern­most round­about is pro­posed.

From the round­about, the pro­posed new road winds a cou­ple of miles on the west side of the two towns be­fore cross­ing the Ocoee River on a new bridge and loop­ing back through another round­about onto State Route 68 in Ten­nessee.

The plan was the sub­ject of a GDOT open house in McCaysville on Sept. 11 at­tended by may­ors of the twin cities and more than 500 res­i­dents. Maps, project de­tails and pro­vi­sions for res­i­dents to make com­ments on the project were avail­able, as well as GDOT folks who could an­swer ques­tions.

McCaysville Mayor Thomas Se­abolt, who has lived in the area since 1942, said the truck route has been a lo­cal topic of con­ver­sa­tion since the 1950s.

“Ev­ery five years, they would sur­vey, say­ing there would be a by­pass down through McCaysville. Ev­ery five years, DOT would sur­vey it, and that was start­ing af­ter ’54,” Se­abolt chuck­led. “So it’s been talked about a while.”

For most of his 80 years, Se­abolt has been a first­hand wit­ness to the traf­fic prob­lems and the need for a so­lu­tion for truck traf­fic.

“I will be glad to see it be­cause the traf­fic is hor­ren­dous on 5 now from Blue Ridge to McCaysville. It’s 12 miles of tak­ing the dan­ger into your own hands,” he said. “We’ve needed [a truck route] for years.”

Peo­ple who at­tended the open house were “awed” by the project, Se­abolt said. He was par­tic­u­larly in­ter­ested in what the large round­abouts would look like with semitrucks go­ing through them and what the bridge over the Ocoee River in Cop­per­hill would look like, sup­pos­ing it would have to be quite high to span West Ten­nessee Av­enue, the river, Ten­nessee High­way 68 and a rail yard.

Also in­cluded in the pro­posed project are 5-footwide side­walks on the McCaysville por­tion along State Route 5 com­ing into town from the south. The side­walks will have a 2-foot grass buf­fer be­tween the side­walk and curb and the road it­self will be im­proved to new stan­dards. No side­walk work is pro­posed for the Ten­nessee por­tion of the project, doc­u­ments show.

Cop­per­hill Mayor Kathy Ste­wart finds the project ex­cit­ing and sees eco­nomic ben­e­fits for both towns.

“I wel­come the by­pass,” Ste­wart said. “I think both cities will grow and still be ‘small towns.’”

Un­like some other towns with by­passes, Cop­per­hill and McCaysville won’t suf­fer from hav­ing the truck route, Ste­wart said.

The down­town area will be “more pedes­trian friendly be­cause all the big trucks will be on the by­pass,” she said. “There are so many large trucks to­day that have to come through, es­pe­cially on our side, that can barely get through at all.”

If the project is built, Ge­or­gia will foot the en­tire bill for con­struc­tion but the Ten­nessee De­part­ment of Trans­porta­tion will main­tain the Ten­nessee por­tion of the truck route af­ter GDOT com­pletes it, Arafa said.

Pub­lic com­ments filed at the open house haven’t yet been sorted, but of­fi­cials said most peo­ple seemed to sup­port the pro­posed project.

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