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New Roundabout Coming to Northeast Georgia

Mon July 31, 2023 - Southeast Edition
Now Habersham & The Associated Press

The roundabout will be a first for Habersham County. It’s likely to be similar to the one installed on Hwy. 115 at State Route 52 in Lumpkin County. (Georgia Dept. of Transportation map)
The roundabout will be a first for Habersham County. It’s likely to be similar to the one installed on Hwy. 115 at State Route 52 in Lumpkin County. (Georgia Dept. of Transportation map)

The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) has awarded a multi-million-dollar contract to a Norcross construction firm to build a roundabout on Georgia Highway 105/Cannon Bridge Road at Ga. 115.

According to the state agency, Wilson Construction Management was the low bidder on the project. The state will pay the contractor $4.98 million for the project, twice what GDOT officials estimated the project would cost early last year.

The roundabout will be a first for Habersham County. It is likely to be similar to the one installed at the intersection of Ga. 115 and Ga. 52 in Lumpkin County, which opened in 2019.

Crews could begin construction on the new roundabout as early as this fall. The projected completion date is May 31, 2025.

Clarkesville Roundabout Delayed

Now Habersham reported recently that a second, more controversial roundabout is still in the works for Clarkesville. However, plans to build the new traffic pattern in Habersham County at the intersection of Ga. 197 and Ga. 17/U.S. 441 have been pushed back a year.

"There is a delay related to utilities," explained GDOT District One Communications Officer Elizabeth Johnson. "The information is vital in order to finalize the design."

She added that the Clarkesville roundabout project is now scheduled to go out to bid in July 2024.

State and local officials have been discussing a roundabout at the city's most heavily trafficked four-way stop for years.

In May 2021, the public had their say when GDOT conducted a survey to gather public input on the project, which met with strong opposition. One of the concerns raised was how the roundabout would affect the location of nearby Stoney's Restaurant, which has been serving Clarkesville since 1965.

Last year, the transportation department explained that its current plan for the roundabout is designed to take those concerns into consideration, with roundabout entrances and exits going between businesses like Stoney's and the adjacent gas station at the junction. Both Ga. 197 and Ga. 17/U.S. 441 will stay where they are to become entrance and exit points for the roundabout.

GDOT refers to the Clarkesville roundabout as a "safety project" because "it will reduce the number of crash points and frequency of accidents," Johnson noted.

The city also will have a say in how the roundabout is designed.

Now Habersham reported that Clarkesville City Manager Keith Dickerson has signed a memorandum of understanding with GDOT for the project. Right-of-way revisions and wall re-configurations are expected to be submitted in September. Additionally, GDOT will include the city portion of the work in its contract.

Clarkesville has hired Falcon Design in Stockbridge, Ga. to complete the drawings for the roundabout. Dickerson said all expenses should be covered by ARPA funds.

Many Georgia Bridges Cannot Support Heavier Trucks

More than 700 bridges across Georgia cannot handle the increased weight limits approved earlier this year by state lawmakers, according to transportation officials.

Andrew Heath, deputy chief engineer of the GDOT, told the State Transportation Board July 19 that the state agency and local governments will post signs with weight restrictions on the additional bridges by Sept. 2, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

The tally includes 306 state-owned bridges and 427 local bridges.

Gov. Brian Kemp signed a law earlier this year that allows a weight limit of 88,000 lbs. for trucks hauling some commodities, including logs and farm products. The previous limit on state roads was 80,000 lbs., but trucks were allowed a variance of up to 84,000 lbs.

Even before the higher weight limit, the Atlanta newspaper reported that state transportation officials said 1,363 of Georgia's nearly 15,000 bridges could not safely withstand maximum weights.

The heavier trucks can only travel on local roads and state highways, not interstates. They're also supposed to stay out of 13 core counties in metro Atlanta and stay within 150 mi. of their home base.

As part of a compromise that emerged from one of the legislative session's more intense fights, the higher weight limits expire on July 1, 2025. The debate pitted logging, farming and trucking groups against city and county governments and GDOT, which fiercely opposed boosting truck weights. Some lawmakers said they want to come up with more money to fund statewide transportation improvements by the expiration date.

The Journal-Constitution noted that groups seeking the increase said they could save money by hauling more freight per trip. Loggers argued the change could make the difference between profit and loss in their low-margin industry.

But opponents warned that heavier trucks will cause more damage to roads and bridges, requiring expensive repairs, and possibly cause more crashes because of increased stopping distances.

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