By JIMMY ESPY
Chattooga County Commissioner Jason Winters said rumors that the state Department of Transportation has already determined the course of the planned industrial bypass on U.S. 27 are unfounded.
“Before any final decisions are made, the DOT will hold public hearings to get the input of people from this community,” said Winters. “The hearings will be like those the DOT has when they repair a bridge; people will get the chance to say what they want.”
Chattooga County will be the site of two separate projects on U.S. 27, but the projects will fit together as one, Winters said. One of the projects is the “four-laning” of the highway from Gore to Summerville. The second project is the construction of an almost two-mile bypass which will link U.S. 27 to Ga. Hwy. 48 (Menlo Highway), bisecting Ga. Hwy 100 (Bolling Road) and Ga. Hwy. 114 (Lyerly Highway.)
The main goal of the project is to lower the amount of heavy truck traffic through downtown Summerville.
“Doing something about truck traffic is important but we also want this route to be something local people use,” said Winters. “That’s why it is important for people to let DOT know which plan they prefer.”
No public meeting has been planned at this point.
Winters said the state is considering three plans for the industrial bypass. Two of them call for a new road to be built off U.S. 27. between the Chattooga River bridge and Maple Drive. A third, longer route would cross Wildlife Road south of the river. That plan would call for the construction of a new bridge.
Winters said he believes the state favors the shorter routes, which do not necessitate building another bridge.
Some property owners along the proposed routes have been contacted by the state, Winters said.
Butch and Teresa Eleam and Deborah King own approximately 80 acres that the state will likely be interested in acquiring.
‘We don’t have any issue with selling it,” said Eleam. “It doesn’t have any sentimental value.”
The property was once part of a much larger tract owned by the late T.J. Espy. Over the years, parts of it have been sold off and used for the McGinnis Circle projects, Summerville Gardens and Saratoga Court.
Eleam said he has not heard from DOT.
Winters said the DOT will have all three proposed routes surveyed.
He said one of the biggest challenges will be the intersection at Ga. Hwy. 114. He said the DOT is considering three options for that intersection – a roundabout, an overpass and a red light.