Smithville residents deal with bypass woes -, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Smithville residents deal with bypass woes

By Len Kiese - bio | email

January 26, 2009

LEE COUNTY, GA (WALB) - Folks in Smithville say a major road project is far from progress for them.

They say the expansion of US Highway 19 is the worst thing to happen in their small town in a long time. That's because it's directing traffic around, instead of through Smithville. That's hurting the town's few businesses.

Just like that, the city of Smithville is changing for people like Thomas Gibson. "Been here all my life just about," said Gibson.

Born and raised here, Gibson can tell you the lay of the land in the city of less than 1,000. "You've got three gas stations here, one grocery store," said Gibson.

There's one thing Gibson feels could make those things disappear from view. "The change right now is the bypass," said Gibson.

"We're not getting any traffic through here anymore," said Jake Smith.

Former Smithville Mayor Jake Smith is far from thrilled about the construction of the bypass that started about a year ago. US 19 used to come right through Smithville. Now that same road is changed to North Stanton Road. Drivers can now choose to make a right turn there to come into Smithville or just keep driving.

"It's just really going to hurt downtown and it's going to kill us, that's what its going to do," said Smith.

Smith and others say they can't let that happen so they're meeting weekly to come up with solutions. "All we're asking for is them to open up 19 here and come on through town, sort of like Leesburg and let the bypass go on around," said Smith.

People are signing petitions and calling state lawmakers in hopes of something being done soon. "It's not going to be enough business for us to stay here and it's just going to ruin us," said Smith.

But the work has already started and official contracts were signed back in 2005 authorizing the relocation of Highway 19. Still there's hope. "We're not going to give up. We're going to work on it," said Smith.

Meanwhile, folks like Thomas Gibson worry about the future growth of their hometown. "You see there isn't much here now," said Gibson.

They say they just want their road back.

The bypass is scheduled to be complete by June. Residents hope they can get some changes before then.


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