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Glenn
06-03-2005, 19:27
http://thenortheastgeorgian.com/articles/2005/06/03/news/top_stories/01topstory.txt



<TABLE cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=0 width=483 border=0><TBODY><TR vAlign=top><TD class=background width=735><TABLE class=background cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=0 width=480 align=left border=0><TBODY><TR><TD vAlign=top><TABLE cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=0 width="100%" align=center border=0><TBODY><TR><TD><TABLE cellSpacing=3 cellPadding=0 width="100%" border=0><TBODY><TR><TD class=story>Interstate 3 route study could begin soon
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By Carolyn Mathews and Rob Moore (rmoore@thenortheastgeorgian.com), CNI News Service A representative from Congressman Charlie Norwood's office said Tuesday a study on the route of a proposed new Interstate 3 could begin this summer and be completed by the end of the year.

Communications Director John Stone said the current proposed route does follow Highway 17 through the Nacoochee Valley and Helen.

The path also is expected to take it along Highway 17 through or near Toccoa, Clarkesville and Hiawassee.

"Of course, it can't go past the Nacoochee Indian Mound, but it may need to go 30 miles west of that or 15 miles east of that," Stone said. "The final route is what this upcoming study is about."

He said the current proposed route of Interstate 3 is from Savannah through Augusta to Knoxville, Tenn., and the current route on paper is just a guideline for the U.S. Department of Transportation to follow. The new road would be designated as "The 3rd Infantry Division Highway," named for the U.S. Army 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Stewart in Hinesville.

Norwood, who is Habersham County's representative in the U.S. House, sponsored the measure to study two new interstates through Georgia after it initially was introduced by Congressman Max Burns of Sylvania, who was not re-elected.

Clarkesville officials say most of what they've heard about the proposed interstate has come through media outlets.

"We have not seen anything [official] at all on that" proposal, said Clarkesville Mayor Sam Tolbert on Wednesday.

Tolbert said he isn't really sure how such a highway would benefit Habersham County and its citizens.

"It would help the situation on I-40 getting up in that part of the country," he said. "When you get up into the Carolinas, it would probably help them."

While Tolbert isn't optimistic the proposed interstate will be a benefit, he doesn't feel it would be a detriment to the quality of life in Habersham County and Northeast Georgia.

"I don't think it would hurt, but I don't think it would help us," Tolbert said. "It's almost like our section would be a bypass for them to get somewhere else."

Clarkesville City Manager Richard Monroe said that any official notification that city might receive likely would come from the Georgia Department of Transportation. Since the proposal likely wouldn't be given to the U.S. DOT until after the end of the year, it could be some time before the Georgia DOT gets involved.

Asked what effect he believes the proposed interstate would have on the area, Monroe said it depends on the route it takes.

"I think everyone knows that Northeast Georgia has been hidden for so long, but it's not hidden anymore," Monroe said. He added that an interstate would allow more people to live here and work or operate businesses elsewhere via the new interstate.

Funding for a feasibility study ($400,000 each for Interstate 3 and for another highway, Interstate 14 that would run east-west from Augusta to Mississippi) has passed both the House and the Senate and is now in conference committee to iron out small differences before the measure goes to President Bush for his signature.

Stone said in his opinion, Bush could sign the bill in July, clearing the way for it to go to the U.S. DOT. That entity would study the route and its feasibility and would be required by law to report back to Congress by year-end.

At that point, Stone said, the highway plans would go to state DOTs to implement.

Final routing would involve environmental and archeological studies, along with community input. Stone said in his opinion, construction could begin on some portions of the interstate within five years.

Stone said the idea of Interstate 3 has received "overwhelming support" from mayors and government officials across Georgia. He was, however, in attendance at a meeting of the Towns County Homeowner's Association last week in Hiawassee, where a crowd of hundreds gathered to hear more about plans for the interstate. Stone said a majority of that group appeared to be opposed to the interstate.

"Right now, there's only a tiny group opposed," he said. "These folks have built retirement homes up there and want to lock themselves in as far as development."

Stone said both the House and Senate backers of the bill would like to see it go through as soon as possible because there is existing roadway that could be used for portions of the interstate. The Savannah River Parkway, a 50-mile road to Sylvania already constructed as a four-lane, easily could be converted to interstate, he said. Additionally, the road would serve as a link to several military installations, including Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield near Savannah, and Fort Gordon and the Veterans Administration Hospital near Augusta, he said.

Matt Sawhill, Sen. Saxby Chambliss' Northeast Georgia regional representative, also said the proposal for the new interstates has received "overwhelming statewide support." He said studies have shown that 80 percent of jobs in America are located within five miles of an interstate.

"Sen. Chambliss' office is listening to concerns from folks who live along the road," he said, "But we want them to know that by no means is the path now on paper set in stone."

State Rep. Charles Jenkins, who represents Towns County as well as the Helen and Sautee-Nacoochee areas, said Tuesday he attended the Hiawassee meeting.

"They're fired up in Towns County, and I don't blame them," he said. "I am strongly opposed to this. It's wrong to run a road like this through the beautiful mountains of North Georgia. Nobody knew it was happening. It was a big secret."

One of the concerns raised at the Hiawassee meeting was that the interstate might be used to transport nuclear wastes.

"That's not the purpose of the highway," Stone said. "It will be used for everything, depending on what it's approved for."

Sawhill said the highway's purpose is to encourage economic development and also to provide a means to transport goods from the port of Savannah to the Midwest.

State Sen. Nancy Schaefer of Turnerville, who was at the Hiawassee meeting, said "this proposal (for an interstate) is not etched in stone, but it appears it's going to happen because it's so far along already. But, I don't think where it's going is a done deal at all."

Schaefer said some communities want the interstate because of the jobs it will bring while others don't want it. She said she thinks it can be worked out where the interstate would go through the areas where the communities want it. She said she currently is in discussion with Norwood and is expecting a call back with answers to her own questions about the proposed interstate.

Helen Mayor Mully Ash said he has not seen plans on the interstate, and until a firm route is earmarked, he can't express an opinion.

Bill Blumreich, president of the Towns County Homeowner's Association, said another meeting on the interstate's tentative path is planned for July. He said the time and date for that will be announced later.

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Frosty
06-03-2005, 21:53
How the heck can a highway going from Augusta to Knoxville cross the AT twice? Seems to me it would have to be an odd number (once or three times) or the highway wouldn't get out of GA. What does it do? Go up Unicoi Gap, loop back down through Neels or Woody Gap, then swing all the way around Amicalola?

Rain Man
06-03-2005, 22:18
Just FYI, there's already a thread about this.