A direct connection to Interstate 75 has been at the top of the Chamber’s priority list for close to three decades.
Brian Robinson, the governor’s director of communications, said the governor told the group that he has not wavered in his strong support for the project.
“He’s instructed the state Department of Transportation to work diligently toward its completion,” Robinson said. “He reiterated that we’re doing everything we can on the state level but the federal level is where we need movement.”
Robinson also said the governor believes the project would greatly benefit the economy and people of Northwest Georgia. “It’s ridiculous that this important project has suffered delays for so long,” Robinson said.
Doc Kibler, the Chamber’s incoming board chairman, said he felt it was a very good meeting. In a prepared statement Kibler said:
“The governor’s support was overwhelming and he listened closely as we described the issues of accessibility to the Port of Savannah, congestion, safety and, of course, jobs. Northwest Georgia has the third-highest economic impact from the port, following Savannah and Atlanta.”
The lawmakers who arranged the meeting had nothing to add. State Rep. Eddie Lumsden and state Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, both Rome Republicans, deferred to Chamber officials. State Reps. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome, and Christian Coomer, R-Cartersville, could not be reached for comment.
The road through Cartersville was first approved in 1989, but halted by a federal judge based on a challenge from the Rollins family, owners of a large ranch that would have been split by the road.
Two decades and numerous public hearings later, the U.S. Federal Highway Administration issued a Record of Decision certifying a similar path, Route D-VE, in October 2008 — but the Rollins family is still throwing up roadblocks.
GDOT Project Manager Albert Shelby said Tuesday that engineers have made a slight tweak of the D-VE route and renamed the shifted route D-VEA.
“It is a slight modification of the alignment in the Dobbins Mine area, to try to minimize harm to the Dobbins landscape,” Shelby said. “It basically utilizes an existing transmission line that’s through there because it’s already graded.”
The state DOT now has to go back and make sure the Connector-route modification doesn’t disturb anything else environmentally.
That process may take until late summer or early fall, although Shelby said the existing ROD approving the route is not affected.
The modification essentially moves the Connector route 800 feet to 1,000 feet south, between U.S. 411 and Interstate 75, dipping below the primary Dobbins Mine property.
Regardless of any political backing for the project, the Rollins family is expected to again file a formal challenge to the project before any right-of-way acquisition gets started.