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New roadway moving traffic quickly in White County
Appalachian Parkway avoids downtown Cleveland traffic
The Appalachian Parkway opened last week in White County. The $15.1 million road, traveling west of Cleveland, connects U.S. 129 to Ga. 115.

The Appalachian Parkway in White County is finally open.

About 16 months past the original completion date, traffic began moving last week along the four-lane road that forms part of a western arc around Cleveland.

“I like it so far,” said Abby Hoosline, a Cleveland native who works at 1st Franklin Financial, near the road. “I take my son to school that way, and it cuts my time in half.”

The road runs from Hope Drive and the Wal-Mart store off Donald E. Thurmond Parkway to Dahlonega Highway/Ga. 115 at Tesnatee Gap Valley Road.

Work began on the $15.1 million road in August 2012, but the project had been talked about — and debated — for decades.

“It’s not unusual for any project to take years to build because of all the planning and design work that goes into it,” state Sen. Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega, said Monday.

Local residents have said the road should cut down on traffic congestion in the downtown area, especially with tourists heading to the Helen or other North Georgia mountain destinations.

But worries also have lingered about the road’s impact on business downtown.

Area promoters succeeded in getting the new road renamed — it had been known primarily as the Cleveland Bypass — to better reflect the area’s geography. A Georgia Senate resolution declares White County “as the gateway to the Appalachian mountain range.”

But also, “nobody wants to be bypassed,” said Cindy Bailey, president of the White County Chamber Of Commerce.

Overall, “I think (the road) is going to be a significant improvement for the traffic flow through White County,” Gooch said.

The initial completion date was July 31, 2014, but was extended to Oct. 13, 2014, because of bad weather. But the Georgia Department of Transportation also assessed a daily fine on the contractor of $1,869 past that date.

A ceremony was held Nov. 24 marking the road’s opening, featuring area and state officials, including DOT commissioner Russell McMurry.

“It should also be good for economic development,” Gooch said of the new road.

Work began last December on the 2.2-mile second phase of the bypass, which will run from Ga. 115 to Ga. 11/U.S. 129 across from Hulsey Road.

The $24 million project includes construction of six bridges, one for each direction of traffic at three locations: Jess Hunt Road, Tesnatee River and Tesnatee Creek.

Like the first phase, the road will be a four-lane divided highway.

A third phase would continue the parkway along Hulsey Road, ending at Ga. 75, DOT district spokeswoman Teri Pope has said.

“The project is not active,” she said. “Right of way and construction do not have years or funding attached to them, so (there is) no timeline on (the work).”

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