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Posted: May 30, 2013 7:44 p.m.

Social Circle bypass to be completed

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The long awaited bypass road around Social Circle will become a reality after the state announced earlier this month it will pay for the $8.1 million project, which will begin in June.

Social Circle leaders have been working on the project for more than a decade in an effort to redirect the tractor- trailer traffic along Ga. Highway 11 away from the city’s historic downtown.

The road is scheduled to open in the fall of 2015, though Social Circle Mayor Hal Dally said he hopes it will be finished before that, and will be built by E.R. Snell Contractor of Snellville. Dally said the money is federal money secured by former mayor Jim Burgess.

The northern section of the bypass road, which runs from East Hightower Trail along the eastern edge of the city limits back to Ga. 11, was completed in 2002 by Walton County, but the southern section, which would complete the bypass road, had been held up, in part because of a redesign to account for increased industrial development, according to the Georgia Department of Transportation.

The 2.7 mile southern section will run from East Hightower Trail and cut southeast through the city to meet Ga. 11 at the Newton/Walton county line.

The state said approximately 5,000 tractor trailers travel Ga. 11 through Social Circle every day, in part because an I-20 interchange, exit 98, is just south of the city.

"Current traffic through historic downtown Social Circle is an estimated 8,600 vehicles per day (vpd). The bypass would reroute approximately 5,400 vpd around the east side of the city; thereby reducing the downtown area traffic. The project will be designed to accommodate traffic growth until 2031," according to the state. "In that year the bypass will handle 11,000 vpd and the existing Ga. 11 through downtown will handle 10,000 vpd. The traffic passing through the existing Ga. 11, if the bypass is not constructed, would be over 18,000 vpd through the historic area. This volume of traffic cannot be handled by the existing 2-lanes, and widening the existing Ga. 11 would cause extensive detrimental impacts to the historic area.

“The proposed bypass typical section would be 12-foot-wide travel lanes (one in each direction) and 10-foot shoulders (4 feet paved, 6 feet grassed),” according to the state’s project description.

“The goal of this project is to complete a bypass around the historic downtown Social Circle. Although improvements will need to be made to Ga. 11/South Cherokee Road at some point in the future, that need is not being created by this project nor is it part of the project’s need,” the description reads. “The completion of the proposed bypass would eliminate the need for additional improvements to the Ga. 11/South Cherokee Road due to the reduction in traffic volume.”

The bypass is going to take up 49.78 acres of right of way along 22 parcels, mostly along either residential or agricultural land; no houses or businesses will be displaced. The road will allow for future development.

“We have a lot of trucks that come here with the industry that we have in town. This will help alleviate pressure in the downtown area as we are designing a walkable, livable downtown. We also put in golf cart usage, so this will help all of that,” Dally said.

Though it won’t happen immediately upon completion of the bypass, Dally said the bypass will eventually become Ga. 11.

“The streets in the middle of town revert to the city, and we’ll be able to do a lot of things with streetscapes we haven’t been able to do in the past. This will get the trucks out to industries where they need to be and give residents and visitors a lot easier (to navigate) and safer downtown,” Dally said.

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