State to widen Ga. Highway 20 in Cherokee, Forsyth counties

Commuters who use Ga. Highway 20, a major east-to-west route in the far reaches of Atlanta’s northern suburbs, will soon benefit from a major widening of a 24-mile segment of the road.

The project in Cherokee and Forsyth counties will be funded with proceeds from House Bill 170, the recently enacted state legislation that hiked gas taxes and imposed other fees to raise an additional $1 billion per year for transportation projects, said Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner Russell McMurry.

The design for the overhaul won’t get under way until next month, so the cost was not immediately available. But the idea to widen and streamline the route has been bandied about for nearly 15 years. Ga. 20 is a heavily congested thoroughfare, with nearly 100,000 vehicles traversing the 24-mile stretch between I-575 and Ga. 400 in northwest Atlanta each day.

It also has a high rate of crashes. According to GDOT, there were 1,415 collisions recorded there between 2007 and 2009.

Speeds on the corridor vary widely from 25 to 55 mph, and the width also varies from two to five lanes in different spots.

“We heard the community’s outcry for this crucial project and the desire for it to remain on the existing roadway,” McMurry said. “This project is a perfect example of the positive impact that using state funds has over federal funding for projects such as this.”

The state started examining how to improve the connection between Canton and Cumming in 2012. However, area residents were concerned about alternatives that the federal government was requiring the state to explore as part of its complicated environmental approval process.

Now that federal funds won’t have to be used for the project, GDOT is free to focus solely on widening Ga. 20.

“I am grateful for the hard work and perseverance of GDOT in ensuring that the community’s concerns were heard and that this important project will be one of the first to show the positive impact of the Transportation Funding Act,” said state Sen. Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta.

The project will be broken up into six segments:

• I-575 to Scott Road

• Scott Road to Union Hill Road

• Union Hill Road to East Cherokee Drive

• East Cherokee Drive to Ga. 369

• Ga. 369 to Ga. 371

• Ga. 371 to the existing four-lane section in Cumming

The Ga. 20 route mimics somewhat the path of the Northern Arc, a multi-billion plan to build an Outer Perimeter that was first proposed in the 1980s as a superhighway around Atlanta. Its projected path was about 25 miles outside of I-285. However, the plan was soundly defeated due to a huge public outcry.

The Ga. 20 route does provide east-west connectivity in the far northern suburbs, however GDOT spokeswoman Natalie Dale said there are no plans to transform the route into a freeway.