Work is halfway done on the second phase of the long-awaited four-lane Appalachian Parkway on the west side of Cleveland.
The best news?
“The project is going well,” Georgia Department of Transportation district spokeswoman Katie Strickland said.
The first phase, a $15.1 million leg that runs from U.S. 129 to Ga. 115, was beset with delays, finishing up last November, or about 16 months past the original completion date.
Construction began in October 2014 on the $25 million, 2.3-mile second phase between Ga. 115 and Ga. 11 at Hulsey Road, and is slated for a fall 2017 completion, Strickland said.
“Currently, activities are grading and laying pipe,” she said. “All beams are set for all the bridges. The concrete driving surface on (one of the bridges) is going to be poured (this) week.”
The new road will feature six bridges, one for each direction of traffic at three locations: Jess Hunt Road, Tesnatee River and Tesnatee Creek.
The project’s third phase is in design. Officials have said the parkway could continue along Hulsey Road, ending at Ga. 75.
The parkway, commonly referred to as the Cleveland bypass, has been in the works 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, has said.
Local residents have said the road should cut down on traffic congestion in the downtown area, especially with tourists heading to Helen or other North Georgia mountain destinations.
But worries also have lingered about the road’s impact on business downtown.
Area promoters succeeded in 2015 in getting the new road named the Appalachian Parkway to better reflect the area’s geography. A Georgia Senate resolution declares White County “as the gateway to the Appalachian mountain range.”
Overall, “I think (the road) is going to be a significant improvement for the traffic flow through White County,” Gooch said.