Smithville-- A neighborhood in the small town of Smithville is slowly vanishing. In April, the Georgia Department of Transportation began widening US Highway 19. The project will include a bridge over Highway 118 and the Central of Georgia Railroad track.
The $40 million Highway 19 project is forcing some homeowners to find new places to live. For others, the bypass will sit directly in front of their home.
"For a neighborhood to be torn down, I can't understand it," says Carrie Thomas, who has lived on Paul Street for more than thirty years. Pretty soon, her home will sit just a few feet a way from the new Highway 19 bypass. "This is going to be hard," says Thomas.
Work crews began building the bypass about a month ago--and it's been a nuisance for Thomas ever since.
"I'm not used to all the noise coming through, trucks and all. And in the morning time, that's what wakes me up. My grandkids have been to the doctor twice since the project started due to the dust," says Thomas.
Construction crews have cleared trees to make room for the bypass. The DOT project has also forced seven families living on the land to find new homes.
"They tore two houses right here, a house here, and two more houses down the street," says Curtis Dismuke.
Dismuke and 14 other family members own the land the DOT is building the bypass on--and they're far from happy about it.
"The family didn't want them to get it anyway because my grandmother said that this property would always be left for kids that was away if they wanted to come back, they would have a place to come back," says Dismuke.
Only now they won't. "They're going on with the project anyway. I guess eminent domain has taken over," he says.
Dismuke says not only did he lose his land, but worries Smithville will also suffer economically. "If the traffic, indeed, follows the bypass, then they got no reason to come to Smithville," says Dismuke.
For now, those who still call this community home, including Thomas, aren't sure how much longer they'll stick around. "If I could find somewhere, I probably would move on," says Thomas."
The project is expected to be completed in September 2009.