Local officials are reacting to the state Department of Transportation’s announcement that the Highway 17 widening project is headed towards construction later this year.
Wednesday, the Georgia DOT announced that construction would begin this summer on the widening of Highway 17 to a four-lane divided highway between the Franklin-Stephens County line and Memorial Drive in Toccoa.
This announcement that the project is moving ahead comes after the awarding of the bids was initially delayed earlier this year, in part to complete environmental paperwork.
Stephens County Commission Vice-Chair Dean Scarborough said that the official awarding of the bids is great news for the community.
“I am ecstatic of course,” said Scarborough. “January and February when the two bids were let and contracts were made and there was a slight interruption, we were assured that would only be a limited time interruption to the project. We knew it was going to start and thank goodness now it is and we are continuing to be excited about looking forward. Toccoa and Stephens County have waited on this for a long time.”
One area where local officials believe a four-lane Highway 17 will help is in the area of economic development.
Stephens County Development Authority Executive Director Tim Martin said this will be a tremendous benefit in that regard.
“It means that we will have direct, four-lane access to one of the major interstate corridors in the United States,” said Martin. “All kinds of commerce travels up and down Interstate 85 and we will have direct access to that. We fully expect to have our project activity increase because of this.”
The Hayestone-Brady Business Park and the Currahee Campus of North Georgia Technical College were both designed and built with the four-lane Highway 17 in mind, according to officials. Both are located in the southern part of Stephens County, just a few miles from I-85.
The entire project was awarded to C.W. Matthews Contracting, Inc. of Marietta, Georgia at a total cost of just over $66 million for about 10.5 miles of work.
While construction is expected to start sometime this summer, there is no exact start date in place yet.
The expected completion date for the entire Highway 17 widening project is in Spring 2016.