Officials in Lumpkin and White counties have passed a joint resolution asking the Georgia Department of Transportation to extend Ga. 400 to connect with Appalachian Parkway in White County.
Ga. 400 currently ends in Dahlonega in Lumpkin County. The resolution asks the state to consider adding 16.2 miles to the highway to bring it into Cleveland. Adding to Ga. 400 would make Dahlonega, Cleveland and Helen more accessible to tourists and allow the University of North Georgia and Truett McConnell University to grow, according to the resolution.
The resolution was approved by the White County Board of Commissioners Thursday, May 17, and by Lumpkin’s board on Tuesday, May 15.
“The Board of Commissioners in Lumpkin and White have decided that it would be beneficial to both counties for the economy and commerce,” Michael Melton, county manager for White County, said.
Stan Kelley, the county manager in Lumpkin, said connecting the two areas would create potential for development along the new proposed stretch of highway.
“It’s been discussed for quite some time … we feel that now is the time to ask the state to give that serious consideration,” Kelley said.
Beth Truelove, president of the White County Chamber of Commerce, said the annual economic impact of tourism in the county is $64 million, and the area’s outdoor opportunities such as hiking are especially popular.
“It certainly could increase the amount of guests we’re able to have,” Truelove said. “It would make it easier for folks who come from metropolitan areas in the west part of the state to get into Northeast Georgia.”
David Zunker, the tourism director of the Dahlonega-Lumpkin Chamber & Visitors Bureau, said the extension could also benefit tourism in Lumpkin County. Tourism generates about $41 million annually in the county, he said, and the area’s attractions such as wineries and downtown Dahlonega could benefit from the highway extension.
“Anything that makes traffic from Atlanta to Dahlonega more pleasant would be to our liking,” he said.
Emir Caner, the president of Truett McConnell University in Cleveland, said the university is supportive of the idea.
“We at Truett McConnell University are thrilled at the proposed 16-mile extension of (Highway) 400 from Dahlonega to Cleveland as it will create an even easier accessibility to the beautiful landscape that is the North Georgia mountains as well as to the scenic campus of Truett McConnell University,” he said in an email. “As the community continues to see rapid growth and expansion, so, too, has the University been blessed with exponential growth. This project will go a long way in ensuring the continuation of this growth into the future.”
The University of North Georgia does not have any feedback about the proposal to share at this time, according to an email from university spokeswoman Sylvia Carson.
The request will go the GDOT planning office, where it will be considered by the state, according to GDOT district spokeswoman Katie Strickland.