Two decades in the making, the widening of Cleveland Highway is crawling toward its 2022 expected start date.
More than 200 people attended a Tuesday open house to review traffic detours in residential areas proposed by the Georgia Department of Transportation while it widens Ga. 11/U.S. 129/Cleveland Highway from two to four lanes with a 32-foot median. About 5.4 miles of road would be widened from Limestone Parkway to Jim Hood Road/Nopone Road.
Along with the expansion and occasional realignment of the highway, DOT is planning two bridge replacements that will begin this year and serve the new road. The project is estimated to cost more than $60 million, including construction and the purchase of rights of way.
There are 31 homes and five businesses that will need to be demolished to make room for the highway, said DOT district spokeswoman Katie Strickland at the open house in the North Hall Community Center. The state hopes to start settling rights of way in 2019.
One of those homes is owned by Phil Elrod, who’s lived on Cleveland Highway since 1988. He began getting letters about the project from the state two years after he bought the house, he said.
But Elrod is fine with being bought out and relocated by the state, he said, noting that the highway has become more and more congested over the years.
“There’s a lot more truck traffic. That’s very noticeable. At certain times of the day it’s very hard to get out (onto the highway). This time of day?” he said around 5 p.m. at the public meeting. “It’s extremely hard — almost impossible to cross over.”
Construction is currently slated for sometime in the 2050s because the work is still classified as a “long-range” project, but Strickland said DOT is working with local organizations to move that up to 2022.
Many people at the meeting remarked on the number of public meetings they’d attended over the years — some with frustration, others with amusement — about the long-proposed project.
DOT engineer Brandon Kirby said the state has a huge list of projects to get through each year, and not all of them get funded. With federal funding involved in the project, and the regulations it brings, and a large amount of local input, the project has been slowed down, according to Kirby.
Richard Thomas is the owner of 129 Salvage, a popular retail store at 2208 Cleveland Highway. He’s not being relocated, but the new right of way for the highway will eat into some of his property — and he expects the construction to eat into his sales.
“That’s a no-brainer,” Thomas said at the meeting. “This will hurt my sales.”
While DOT would compensate him for his land but not his lost revenue, he said he thinks he’ll survive the three to four years of construction along the road.
“I hope so. I think it will (work out). We’ve got a good customer base,” Thomas said. “A new business? I’m not so sure.”
The state collected written comments at the meeting and will continue collecting comments until May 23. They can be submitted online at www.dot.ga.gov/PS/Public/PublicOutreach or mailed to Eric Duff, Georgia Department of Transportation, 600 West Peachtree Street NW, 16th Floor, Atlanta, GA 30308.