Gov. Nathan Deal this week received a letter from the Federal Highway Administration requesting the state begin an analysis to determine reasonable alternatives to the proposed route D-VE connector.
“During my campaign for governor, I expressed strong support for the D-VE alignment of the U.S. 411 connector because I felt it would decrease congestion, create jobs, grow businesses, and ultimately expand Georgia’s role as a major logistics hub for global commerce,” Deal wrote in a letter to Floyd County government. “This project had already received a Record of Decision that gave the project the final approval for construction from the Federal Highway Administration in 2008.
“However, the Federal Highway Administration recently declared in a June 11, 2013, letter that it has ‘determined that construction of this alternative or any derivation of D-VE will result in an adverse effect to the Dobbins Mountain Mining Landscape. ...We request that you begin an analysis of reasonable alternatives that avoid use of the Section 4(f) protected resource known as the Dobbins Mountain Mining Landscape.”
In July 2012, the Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places issued a Determination of Eligibility Notification that stated the Dobbins Mountain Mining Landscape, located within the proposed route D-VE, is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.
In response to Dobbins Mountain being eligible for such a listing, the state began looking into an alternative route for the connecter, specifically completing a Phase I Archaeological Survey of Alternative D-VE-A.
However, the letter from the FHA further states, “While we feel that Alternative D-VE-A seems to represent the best derivation of Alternative D-VE in terms of minimizing impacts to the Dobbins Mountain Mining Landscape, this alignment still bisects the boundary of the resource and impacts contributing features associated with the mining landscape.”
The letter states the FHA has determined that construction of D-VE-A or any other derivation of D-VE will result in an adverse effect to Dobbins Mountain and would require that the state perform an analysis that would demonstrate there would be no other feasible options that exist for a connector that avoids Dobbins Mountain.
Brian Robinson, deputy chief of staff for communications for Deal’s office, told The Daily Tribune News while the governor’s office is disappointed by what they were told by the FHA, the state plans to move forward with developing a connector.
“We disagree with the highway administration’s determination, we think it’s the wrong determination. That said, we can’t move forward without the federal funding, so what we’re going to do is plow ahead and get a new study done on a new route and get to work on that,” Robinson said. “We’ll go to the next plan. This is not the end of this, there’s more to come.”
He continued, “This is a setback, it’s disappointing and it’s going to be costly, just as these past 30 years of delays have been costly, but Gov. Deal is going to keep his promise to fight for this project, it’s an important economic development issue for northwest Georgia, particularly for Floyd and Bartow Counties, and Gov. Deal is going to do everything he can to keep his promise to get this done. We can’t overrule the federal government, but we can do everything we possibly can to make this happen.”
Gary Rollins of the Rollins family, who campaigned against the initial route, said, “We would like to thank the Coalition for the Right Road, the Georgia Conservancy, the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, the city of Euharlee and other concerned groups and citizens for their efforts. Now it’s time to work together on selecting an alternative route that will benefit the citizens of Bartow County and Floyd County so the road can be built as soon as possible.”
Rollins family spokesman Tony Wilbert added, “We are pleased that the Federal Highway Administration recognized that GDOT’s proposed route for the U.S. 411 connector would have an adverse effect on the historic Dobbins Mountain Mining Landscape, which had earlier been designated by the National Register of Historic Places as a protected site. It is noteworthy that numerous environmental organizations were in opposition to the route, as well as the estimated construction was considerably more expensive than the other alternatives.
“The decision means state taxpayers will save $100 million of their money and that a key historical site will be preserved. The decision also will spare endangered species in the area and other wildlife that migrate through the area. We are in favor of a 411 connector and stand ready to work with GDOT and officials from Floyd and Bartow counties and others to help identity a reasonable alternative for the needed Rome-to-I-75 connector.”