"[The Federal Highway Administration] has not made a concrete decision [on the route], they've just thrown out some concerns due to some environmental issues," said Jeff Lewis, who serves as 11th Congressional District representative on the GDOT.
The Daily Tribune News previously reported concerns from the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife Services that sulfide-bearing rock, with the potential to produce acid runoff, could be present within the cut in Dobbins Mountain.
"The difficulty is we've never encountered a situation where we've had acid runoff and what the effects would be to the Cherokee darters," FWS Biologist Pete Pattavina said last week.
Lewis said the further studies needed by FHWA were routine.
"One thing I did learn is this isn't anything new, it's a common approach to these situations when a project like this is getting right to the point where they're beginning to start right-of-way acquisition and or construction, they have to go through the same steps one last time to see if anything has occurred since they've given their study to begin with," Lewis said.
He added, "Whether U.S. Wildlife presented something new or not, Federal Highway is still legally required to do these extra studies, but I guess with U.S. Wildlife bringing something to their attention it makes them want to do their due diligence extra carefully."
Lewis explained another option for the connector, but said there are no plans at this time to deviate from Route D-VE.
"Plan C, I believe, deviates maybe the last two miles of the whole connector stretch, and basically it dead-ends into [Highway 411] in the Oakland Heights area and diverts it north up to the current interchange at interchange village, that's roughly two miles," Lewis said. "If for some reason these studies determine that D-VE is not good, that it's more suited for an alternative, that would be the first alternative to look at."
Calls last week to FHWA were not returned at press time.