LaGrange City Manager Tom Hall announced last week that the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) has approved federal funding to widen Hamilton Road, a project that has been on hold for more then 20 years.
The $31 million project will widen Hamilton Road from Morgan Street to just before Lukken Industrial Drive from two to four lanes, where it will then join with the four lanes already in place.
Project manager for GDOT Adam Smith said the hold up over the years has been the drafting of the environmental document that must be signed off by state and federal highway officials, since Hamilton Road is a federal highway.
The environmental studies, he said, included researching and evaluating the impact the project will have on endangered species and cultural and historical components in the area. The cause of concern for this project was mostly people and historic sites. About 16 buildings could be considered historic sites and will need to be removed.
“Over 40 structures (total) could be demolished because they’ll be in the way of the right-of-way construction,” said LaGrange Director of Public Services, David Brown.
Smith said that the DOT is looking into ways to preserve as many of the structures as possible, whether by putting up a wall or moving parking lots to the opposite side of a building. If that’s not possible, the DOT will have to put up historical markers in their place and provide information on the area’s history to local libraries.
Part of the Union Street park also will be removed for the project.
The owners of the structures that are removed for the project will be compensated by the state, said Hall.
“Anytime they need an additional right of way, the state will go through an appraisal process and they will be compensated for any land they need,” he said.
The Whitesville Road/Morgan Street end of Hamilton Road also will have a raised median dividing the four lanes, said Brown.
Smith hopes to have the environmental document signed within six to eight weeks, then a public hearing will be held on the project.
“It seems the public is in favor of the project and they will have a lot of say so in the project,” said Smith.
The public hearing could be held as early as March 31.
“Once the hearing is done, DOT will take in to account comments from public, then hopefully sign the final assessment then they can start right of way acquisition,” Hall said. “That will take 18-24 months because they’ve got hundreds of parcels to buy.”