The $23.5 million second phase of the Cleveland Bypass, a project that would complete a western arc around the tourist town, has been awarded to a contractor.
The new road will run from near Tesnatee Gap Valley Road at Ga. 115 to Hulsey Road near U.S. 129 just north of Cleveland.
Work is expected to start in the spring on the 1.73-mile stretch, around the time the first phase is set to be completed, and completed by Sept. 30, 2017.
“Once completed, the Cleveland Bypass will improve mobility for locals and tourists by directing through traffic around Cleveland, minimizing congestion into the square,” said Brent Cook, Georgia Department of Transportation district engineer.
The DOT announced Friday the contract had been awarded to G.P.’s Enterprises of Auburn.
The first phase of the Cleveland Bypass originally was slated for completion by July 31, but the work now is set to be finished by April 30.
The 2-mile, $16.8 million project calls for construction of a four-lane divided highway that begins at Hope Drive and Ga. 11/U.S. 129 and extends northwest to Ga. 115.
Tucker-based Sunbelt Structures is the phase one contractor.
White County officials and residents have long anticipated the overall bypass, as traffic gets congested on U.S. 129 heading into downtown Cleveland, especially at rush hour and during the busy leaf-watching season in the fall.
A DOT fact sheet on the project said the bypass “will open up capacity and increase efficiency of travel to the downtown retail and historic district of Cleveland by providing an alternate route for through traffic not destined” for Cleveland.
“We are anxious to have it completed,” said Cindy Bailey, president of the White County Chamber of Commerce. “This has been a long time in coming.”
“We’re referring to it as the scenic parkway,” she said, adding that aerial views of the surrounding North Georgia mountains “are absolutely stunning.”
An area resident, Sam Owens, has used a drone to fly over the construction site, capturing some captivating views, and he’s posting the footage on YouTube.
Bailey said the road will help ease traffic flowing through the town’s historic square from U.S. 129 and Ga. 115, which is “like a major crossroads.”
“We want to work to keep as much traffic coming into Cleveland that wants to do business (downtown),” she said. “And then for those just trying to get around (downtown), it’s not as congested.”
According to the White County government website, the project’s third phase is scheduled to break ground sometime in 2019.
That project will involve a road running from near Hulsey Road at U.S. 129 to near the Hulsey at Ga. 75/Helen Highway intersection.
“More information will be available once plans are finalized,” the site said.