GDOT’s proposed truck route to loop across Tennessee line
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.