Planners hold Leesburg Bypass open house -, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Planners hold Leesburg Bypass open house

By Tayleigh Davis - bio | email

LEESBURG, GA (WALB) - A road project is causing controversy in Lee County. The state plans to build a short bypass around Leesburg. Supporters say it will relieve traffic congestion and improve traffic safety. Critics worry the project could be disruptive and hurt downtown businesses.

Thousands of cars pass through the US-19 and 4th Street intersection in Leesburg everyday. Lee County Director of Planning and Engineering Bob Alexander says the population of Leesburg basically grows from 3,000 to 10,000 when kids are heading to and home from school.

"The school traffic is so intense, there's no place for school traffic to go except through downtown so there needs to be an alternate route," Alexander noted.

Alexander says the state and federal government will pay for the $7.8 million bypass. It would start along US -19 near the Leesburg West Bypass, stretch 1.75 miles and end at State Route 195, but some people in Leesburg don't want it.

Todd Espy and his wife own property on Smithville road close to the proposed project.

"We were concerned with noise from rumble strips or other traffic," Espy said.

Alexander says the roads are wide and there shouldn't be a lot of noise impacting the houses near the bypass. Even if noise is at a minimum, the Espys have other concerns.

"When you get commercial properties or try to zone into them, we do not want to live by a convenience store," Espy said.

So far, no commercial projects are planned on the Leesburg North Bypass.

One downtown business owner says he doesn't want traffic diverted from downtown because he depends on business from people passing by.

"Nobody would ever see us," Leesburg Auto Parts owner Jack Fore said. "If they cut your pay in half would it bother you?"

Planning department officials say school traffic at the busy Leesburg intersection, and people's safety is their main concern.  The DOT plans to begin acquiring rights of way for the project in 2011. That should take about a year. There's no timeline yet for construction.

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