What is the 411 Connector?
The US 411 Connector is a proposed limited-access highway that would bypass the US 41/411/SR 20 interchange in Bartow County and provide a direct route to I-75 from Cartersville and Rome.
Why is the 411 Connector needed?
Floyd and Bartow counties, as well as the cities of Rome and Cartersville, are rapidly growing areas of northwest Georgia. The areas are currently served by a several outdated US highways and state roads that, as surface roads, are inadequate to handle current traffic volumes and do not provide a direct route to I-75. As a limited-access highway, the 411 Connector would provide quick convenient access to and from I-75 – providing a tremendous benefit to local businesses – while also easing traffic congestion for local residents using US 41, US 411 and SR 20 for local travel.
The need for such a road has been apparent since the mid-1970s, and the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) began formally planning for the project in 1986.
What routes are being considered?
GDOT has considered eight routes and, curiously, settled on Route D-VE – a very costly and environmentally intrusive path.
What are the problems with Route D?
There are many, but to enumerate just a few:
- Route D-VE will cost $112 million more than the road that was originally proposed and favored by GDOT (Route G).
- Route D-VE will require blasting that will result in the destruction of Dobbins Mountain (peak elevation 1,150 feet).
- Route D-VE will require an atypical jughandle interchange with traffic lights, which raises concerns about safety and congestion.
- Route D-VE will require the construction of about 18 bridges and overpasses. The enormous cost of permitting and constructing so many overpasses will ultimately impact funding for other important state road projects and could result in those plans being delayed or halted altogether.
Is there a viable alternative?
Yes! There are numerous other routes that are much better alternatives … consider:
- Other routes provide the shorter, most direct access to I-75 from Rome.
- Other routes are more economical – costing at a minimum – tens of millions of dollars less that Route D-VE.
- Other routes are safer, requiring fewer bridges, railroad crossing and intersections.
- Other routes are incompatible with any plans to connect with and restart the highly controversial Northern Arc project.
Are there environmental issues with Route D-VE that are cause for concern?
Absolutely. Route D-VE will negatively impact the environmentally sensitive Pettit and Nancy Creek watersheds, which are home to threatened and endangered species, and it cuts through several mountains (e.g. Dobbins Mountain) and hilltops.
- Stream evaluations for both watersheds noted above indicate the ecosystems as they now exist are already fragile. Both watersheds are facing high conductance and pH levels, and damaging bank erosion is already evident in dozens of locations.
- Route D-VE would require several crossings of Pettit Creek, further jeopardizing the imperiled Cherokee Darter, which is officially listed as a threatened species by the federal government.
- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is on record as having expressed serious concern over the proposed route and the negative impact it will have on endangered/threatened species.
- In addition, the full potential environmental impact of Route D-VE has not been studied.
- The 2007 Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (FSEIS) showed the 411 Connector impacting 1,191 linear feet of streams – but does not mention three additional streams that will be impacted, totaling an additional 1,010 linear feet.
- As a result of these omissions, the FSEIS underestimates the impact of the 411 Connector to state and federal jurisdictional waters in the Dobbins Mountain area by almost half.
- Destruction of Dobbins Mountain will adversely impact and displace wildlife.
How do other routes stack up against Route D-VE with regard to Environmental Impact?
From an environmental impact perspective, there are clearly superior choices.
- Other routes will impact fewer streams (the identification of which will require further study) and will not require major stream crossings at the erosion prone and eco-sensitive Pettit Creek.
- Other routes will not impact threatened and endangered species.
- Other routes which have been studied will preserve Dobbins Mountain – also known as Bartow County’s “Magic Mountain.”
- Other routes have less dramatic topographical changes than Route D-VE, requiring fewer bridges, overpasses, culverts, turn lanes, etc. for the extension
- The natural topography of other routes, especially those to the north of Route D-VE will minimize the impact of traffic and related noise.
What are the human consequences of this roadway?
Route D-VE raises considerable environmental justice issues because it encroaches on several historic communities and places of worship. For example:
- The route will negatively impact the Church at Liberty Square, Christian Fellowship Church and Pine Grove African Methodist Episcopal Church (which dates to the 1800’s), and will pass near the Peeple’s Valley Church and Mays Family Cemetery.
- Route D-VE will increase noise levels significantly in surrounding communities
- Route D-VE has the potential to diminish the land values of churches and residences along its projected path.
Will Route D-VE have an adverse impact on any historical or cultural resources?
Yes. Route D-VE would bisect the site of Dobbins Mine, which should be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places designation under guidelines published by the U.S. Department of the Interior.
- Dobbins Mine has been in existence since at least 1867 and is recognized as one of the the oldest manganese mines in Georgia.
- Field studies have identified 43 earthen features at Dobbins Mine which are the result of historic manganese or ochre mining – 20 of these features are located within the proposed Route D-VE right-of-way and would be destroyed if that route is built.
- Consultants that conducted a 2005 archeological survey for the proposed 411 Connector acknowledged that “the true extent of the (Dobbins Mine) site was not investigated.”
How do other routes compare to other proposed routes where environmental justice issues are concerned?
Compared to Route D-VE, most of the other routes considered by GDOT will impact fewer historic communities and residential subdivisions, and will not impact local places of worship.
How would other routes impact historical and cultural resources?
There are several possible routes for the 411 Connector that would leave the historical and cultural resources at Dobbins Mine completely undisturbed and intact – preserving an important part of the region’s identity and history.
Which of the routes is shortest?
Most routes studied for the 411 Connector are shorter than Route D-VE. At least one is shorter by about two miles. It means that most of the routes – which could be built instead of Route D-VE – afford quicker access for those traveling from Rome to I-75.
Are there any safety issues to consider?
Yes. Route D-VE traverses wetlands and other sensitive ecosystems, crosses more major roadways and rail lines and requires many more bridges with an end point described as a ”North Georgia version of Spaghetti Junction,”
Other proposed routes run along less traveled industrial corridors. The routes offer access to I-75 by way of single lane collector/distributor ramps that can work with the existing infrastructure on US 411 and I-75, eliminating the need for an atypical and potentially unsafe and congested interchange.
What are the projected costs of the two routes?
The current cost estimate for Route D-VE is $214 million. Other routes, which are shorter and require fewer bridges and a less complicated interchange, would logically cost much less.
Why the discrepancy in cost?
Route D-VE is longer than other routes considered by as much as two miles, so more road needs to be built, and the topography of the route requires about 18 bridges and overpasses. In addition, Route D-VE requires the extremely expensive dynamiting and destruction of Dobbins Mountain while other routes face no such obstacles.
Why would anyone insist on building a longer, more expensive, more dangerous and environmentally intrusive route?
It is very clear that if Route D-VE is built, it will provide a perfect connection across I-75 for the long planned and much despised Northern Arc project. The Northern Arc has been soundly rejected by a vast majority of Georgians as a massively expensive project that taxpayers simply cannot afford and that we simply don’t need.