County supporting Hwy 136 and Hwy 183 Scenic Byway

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Scenic Byway

ELLIJAY, Ga. – Joining in support with Dawson County and the Dawson County Chamber of Commerce, the Board of Commissioners voted in approval of supporting a “Scenic Byway” designation for a portion of Hwy 136 and Hwy 182.

The resolution indicates a route “that begins in the City of Dawsonville out Hwy 183 and Hwy 136, past Amicalola Falls State Park and over Burnt Mountain.” The Dawson County Chamber is asking for the Georgia Scenic Byway designation from the Georgia Department of Transportation for this route.

The Gilmer Board of Commissioners discussed benefits for supporting the agenda item and were questioned by citizens on the usefulness of it. In fact, according to Chairman Paris, a number of surrounding counties have already done this and support the scenic byway.

One citizen who spoke during the work session asked about the development footprint and ulterior motives of supporting the scenic byway and the level of state and federal involvement into the county.

Paris said that Gilmer was approached by other counties to join the designation. He stated, “We have no reason on this at all other than just offering cooperation to other counties. We’re not looking for it to impact our growth or tourism or anything else really. No ulterior motives at all.”

Parker also noted that not all of Hwy 136 is covered, rather only the part crossing Burnt Mountain. Hwy 136 continues on crossing Hwy 515 and turning north to cross into Gilmer County in the southwest corner.

The county has been approached numerous times over the years for what they have called “letters of support” for different things from the roundabout at Hwy 382 to trails in the county. Sometimes they require promises of future action and some do not. The board even mentioned this in the regular session as Paris said he was okay with the resolution as long as it didn’t commit the county to spending money.

However, while this is set for Hwy 136 and Hwy 182 in sections not within Gilmer, Paris did note during the Work Session that the he could be discussing with the other members of the BOC to initiate a similar designation for Boardtown Road. Most recently, Boardtown Road and its residents gathered to oppose plans of putting major power lines and poles along the road in a Georgia Transmission Corporation (GTC) project to upgrade power and stability in the area. This was one of those items in which the BOC offered a letter of support to aid in the actions of the community.

No member of the BOC mentioned anything further about Boardtown Road, but if the county does pursue the designation, certain protections could be imposed. According to the Georgia Department of Transportation under their benefits of the designation of a Scenic Byway, “If a community decides to emphasize the protection of scenic and natural areas, land use ordinances could be created to preserve the rural character of a byway and limit development intrusion. Scenic Byway designation is a unique tool, in that it can be used to achieve a wide variety of your community’s goals.”

Highway 382 roundabout project now in use as final stages commence

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ELLIJAY, Ga. – Highway 382 has seen construction on the roundabout project to connect a direct route to Highway 515 for nearly a year. The Georgia Department of Transportation project began in the latter half of 2019 despite the COVID-19 outbreaks and is still continuing today.

roundabout

A view from entering the roundabout from Highway 382 and heading towards Highway 515.

However, the project has hit the point now where all traffic has been moved from the old route passing directly beside Green’s Country Store to the new path curving off just past Dollar General, if you’re traveling towards Ellijay.

The stop signs at the old intersection have been removed and traffic is now fully engaging the roundabout with the Highway 382 extension in use as well.

Utilizing the extension that now crosses Old Highway 5, via the roundabout, and continues straight towards Highway 515 instead of merging with Old Highway 5 before a a small connector split off to intersect 515 at Powersports Drive.

roundabout

Construction continues into the final stages for the Old 5 and Highway 382 roundabout as it enters the final stages of construction.

The new direct path intersects Highway closer to town at the Gun Pro Shop. However, the intersection is not a traffic stop.

Instead, drivers traveling to 515 along the new connection are forced to turn right (Southbound) away from Ellijay before using a turn lane a few hundred feet down the road in order to turn back towards Ellijay.

The project reaches all the way back to 2016 when the Gilmer Board of Commissioners and the City of Ellijay received letters from GDOT about the coming project. Original seeking letters of support, discussion later turned towards lighting and maintenance costs for the roundabout itself as GDOT wanted the county or city to take over those costs while they continued paving maintenance for 382 itself.

roundabout

GDOT has been working on the roundabout project since last year, but plans began back in 2016 with letters to Gilmer County and the City of Ellijay.

Current understanding is that these are the remaining steps in the project as GDOT has put some lighting on the roundabout for night traffic, but it was not seen operational over the weekend.

While the project continues these steps and clean-up, the larger portion of the project is now complete and has begun traffic flow only in the last couple of days. GDOT stated earlier this year that expectations were to complete the project over the summer. The project has seen delays through weather over the last year, but no specific details are available at this time on whether returning COVID-19 numbers or increasingly heavy rainfall in some weeks were the cause of any major delays.

Lower Cartecay Bridge to start construction before a temporary closure to 52 East

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ELLIJAY, Ga. – During the county’s monthly work session today, information received over a zoom call was revealed as Commission Chairman Charlie Paris, along with Public Works Director Jim Smith spoke on it’s involvement with another Georgia Department of Transportation (DOT) bridge project.

According to Smith, the state is discussing replacement of two bridges on Highway 52 East. The project would require a detour along state roads as they plan to go about the project. Smith went on to add that this could mean closure of as section of the highway for up to a year.

Through traffic would take alternative state roads. However, Smith noted that much of the local traffic would end up relying on Lower Cartecay Bridge for certain traffic and access routes. The project has been under discussion since it was condemned in April, 2017. It was later adopted into a state replacement program, and it was later given a priority over another local bridge.

Now, the bridge could see the beginning of construction to replace it over five years later. According to Chairman Paris, the date given by the state would be August, 2022.

In addition to this, Smith said that the state hopes to start its 52 East Bridges project in 2025.

Public Works Director Jim Smith

Paris added later that Smith presented a strong argument that the DOT needs to move the start date on Lower Cartecay to a earlier date so that the bridge will definitely be completed and available for traffic as necessary for local traffic.

While the state made no official promises, Smith said representatives “didn’t disagree” with a need for an earlier start to Lower Cartecay.

This project has gone through several plans for replacement in the county as former Post Commissioner Travis Crouch debated for setting aside money in the annual budget to replace the bridge before the board found the state replacement program.

A massive reduction in local costs, the county applied and was accepted into the program, but has, until today, never heard of official start dates for the physical construction as the state has been acquiring right of ways and engineering plans for the project.

Paris said both he and Smith stressed the importance of having he bridge completed sooner rather than later, especially with another major bridge project nearby so close behind it on the timeline.

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