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Road projects won’t be cheap or quick

State DOT has proposed changes to Ga. 365, Ga. 400

POSTED: March 22, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Scott Rogers/The Times

A truck waits in the middle of Ga. 365 for an opening in traffic Monday afternoon at Howard Road. The DOT is nearing completion of a study on the open corridors of Ga. 365 and Ga. 400.

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The Georgia Department of Transportation is in the final stages of receiving public comment on proposals for changes in open access on Ga. 365 and Ga. 400.

However, before the comments have been reviewed, two things are clear: Any major changes will be far in the future and will be very expensive.

The Ga. 365 study involves the section of the highway between the Old Cornelia Highway exit in East Hall and the Demorest-Mount Airy Road interchange in Habersham County.

North of the Old Cornelia exit is where Interstate 985 becomes Ga. 365. There are currently 21 places where roads intersect the highway. In addition, there are 53 private driveways that lead to the highway.

Under one proposal, that number would be reduced to three intersections, seven interchanges and 37 driveways.

"The proposal also included widening 365 to six lanes, three in each direction," said Teri Pope, a DOT spokeswoman.

On Ga. 400, there are plans already under way for improvements at Ga. 369 in Forsyth County and at Ga. 53 in Dawson County. Under the proposal, both roads would become interchanges on Ga. 400, allowing east-west traffic to continue flowing and providing ramp access to and from Ga. 400.

While those projects are moving forward, all of the concepts for Ga. 365 are still to be determined.

Pope said design, land acquisition and construction for a new interchange typically takes 10 years.

The section of Ga. 365 involved in the study averages 15,000 daily trips. However, traffic counts at various points vary along the road. In 2006, there were 25,630 cars per day at Ga. 365 and White Sulphur Road, 20,480 at Belton Bridge Road and 13,340 at Mud Creek Road.

For businesses along the Ga. 365 corridor, the proposal has already raised a red flag. Judah Echols, whose family owns a major retail farm market on Ga. 365, said the proposed access road could hurt their business.

"They’re talking about possibly doing away with our driveway, if they go with interchanges and exits," Echols said. "How do you value a 27-year business that is dependent on the highway traffic?"

Echols said that Jaemor Farm Market would probably retain its regular customers, but would lose new business of customers who make an impulse decision to turn in.

"It’s so convenient to be right off the four-lane," he said.

The area has become home to a number of businesses, including a shopping area near Alto and a pair of new car dealerships at Baldwin, who depend on being close to the highway.

The proposals, which have been offered for public comments, range from simply adding lanes to a complete limited access highway much like the portion between Interstate 85 and the end of I-985.

The final report, which will be submitted to DOT officials, will not be ready until sometime this summer.



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