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Proposed Highway 84 bypass still years off

At least one family worred about displacement

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POSTED: November 20, 2009 9:40 a.m.
Photo by Pat Watkins/

Area residents and officials surround DOT planners, questioning them about a proposed route for a Highway 84 bypass around Hinesville at a Wednesday forum.

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Officials say they’ve changed the route for a proposed Highway 84 bypass to affect the fewest residences possible, but that is little comfort to Karen and CW4 Rusty Higgason.
“It comes right through my house,” Karen Higgason said Wednesday during a forum on the proposed route for the new road.
What may provide some comfort to her and her Fort Benning-based husband is that the project is years away and the route has not been approved.
“Even if we had a settled alignment and were ready to start acquiring right-of-way today, with all the reviews and things that would have to happen it would take several years,” Liberty County Administrator Joey Brown said, pointing out the project is labeled a long-range plan, meaning it could be 10 years out to start.
And, on top of that, construction funding has not been identified, according to Teresa Scott, district planning and programming engineer for the state Department of Transportation.
“At this point, there is no date attached,” she said.
She did say the project will be a joint effort with the county taking on preliminary planning and right-of-way acquisition and the state and federal governments agreeing to fund construction at an approximate 80-20 percent split.
Brown said the bypass eventually will be about 12 miles of four-lane, divided road, whatever route it takes. Initially, however, only two lanes would be built at an estimated cost of $53 million at today’s material costs.
He said the planning work is being funded by the current special purpose local option sales tax funding.
“We’re just trying to get this part done, planning,” county commission Chairman John McIver said. “That’s the county’s part.”
Brown said local planners are exploring the possibility of speeding up funding, including if the Georgia General Assembly approves regional special use sales taxes for transportation.
“Ironically enough, a one-cent special transportation tax for regional type projects between Liberty and Long would fund this project with five years worth of revenue at the current rate,” Brown said.
The proposed route unveiled Wednesday is the second one the county has floated before the public. Brown said the biggest change from the earlier version was in the Walthourville area, where instead of coming through the populated the route veered west into Long County where there is little development.
“We made all efforts to avoid residences in Walthourville,” McIver said.
And that pleases Ardell Farr, who lives in Walthourville, but who is still concerned what it will do to individual residents and the community as a whole.
“We started out a quiet, little town,” she said. “This is probably going to change us.”
If the current proposal holds, it will definitely change life for the Higgasons, who built what they said is a $400,000 home on eight acres of what used to be the Hack Plantation in Long County. Their homestead includes fruit trees, a workshop and facilities for horses.
“We just don’t understand why it doesn’t go through the 98 undeveloped acres behind us,” Karen Higgason said.
 

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