CLEVELAND - White County and northeast Georgia got some good news Monday as officials announced funding has been secured for the second phase of the Cleveland Bypass.
State Sen. Steve Gooch made the announcement at the White County Courthouse to a large group of county and city officials from the area. Until now, only Phase 1 of the project, which is under construction, had funding.
Gooch has been a champion for the project, starting back when he served on the DOT board and he said he wanted to see it finished.
"You have to have a cheerleader on any project in state government to push something and stay focused and the priority on that project, and that's what I did," Gooch said. "When I became state senator, I continued that drive and that push to make sure we completed this project so I'm excited to see it become a reality."
Gooch and Reps. Lee Hawkins, Stephen Allison and Terry Rogers had written Governor Nathan Deal stating, "Waiting several years to complete this important road project will only delay the congestion relief that is so critically needed for the economic development of White County and the surrounding communities."
Gooch said he received word a couple weeks ago that Gov. Nathan Deal will recommend to the Georgia Department of Transportation Board use State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) funds to construct Phase 2 of the bypass, beginning with fiscal year 2015, which begins next July.
This funding, Gooch said, will allow the bypass construction to continue over to U.S. Highway 129 north of Cleveland and connect with Hulsey Road.
Phase 2 of the project calls for almost $20 million in expenditures. Gooch said the right-of-way already has been purchased, but there are still a couple of environmental issues that need to be resolved. He added those are expected to be settled by the time the projects gets underway.
White County Commissioner Travis Turner said White County will benefit, but so will the counties to the north, Towns and Union.
GDOT spokeswoman Teri Pope said the construction for Phase 1 is slightly behind schedule, due to the rainy weather this summer, but they are expected to get back on track, and the announcement of Phase 2 funding will allow for a seamless progress.
"Construction of Phase 1 will wrap up right as the construction of Phase 2 starts - that's our goal here," Pope said.
She said construction of Phase 2 is likely to begin in early 2015.