There is a public meeting on the Monroe Bypass at 6:30 p.m. tonight

With the possibility of Georgia Department of Transportation considering alternative routes for the long-awaited Monroe Bypass, (otherwise known as the SR-83 Connector), the community is invited to attend an open community meeting at 6:30 p.m. in the Parish Hall of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church at 210 North Broad Street in Monroe. There is no official sponsor to this meeting, but elected officials and agency staff are invited.

Gareth Fenley, a neighbor in the Brush Creek subdivision, where the Bypass is proposed to slice through, is the volunteer who called the meeting.

“I am organizing a petition urging Georgia Department of Transportation to work with neighbors on the planning of this proposed bypass,” Fenley said in calling for the meeting.

Several in attendance at the Georgia DOT Open House back in October expressed concern about the current route, including some of the people who own property in the federal redevelopment area just across the State Route 11 Bridge over SR 78 north of Monroe. The proposal would construct a 4.7-mile connector the would create a bypass around historic downtown Monroe. It would begin at (SR) 11 about 1/2 mile south of the city limits extending eastward and ending at SR 83. Construction would terminate at SR 83 tying into the existing intersection of James Huff Road and SR 10/US 78. This tie-in concerns property owners north of the city who believe that while it diverts trucks and heavy traffic around the downtown area, it then dumps them right back on SR 11 north of the city where much of the large retail development is currently being planned. This area of Monroe and Walton County north of Monroe has been designated Qualified Opportunity Zones by the U.S. Department of Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service, giving the area the opportunity to attract investment over the next 10 years. Property owners, such as Ron Stephens who owns the property that houses the Deer Acres Inn, are concerned that this could have a negative impact on the potential of that investment. The existing segment of James Huff Road/SR 83 would remain as a two-lane roadway for about 0.73 miles from SR 83 at SR 83 Connector and would remain as a four-lane roadway with 12-foot travel lanes with a combination of a raised and depressed median for about 0.48 miles leading to SR 83 at SR 10/US 78.

“You’re just moving your problem and dumping it all back on Highway 11 for us,” Stephens said.

There are others though, such as merchants in downtown Monroe who welcome getting trucks off the main street through town, and Mayor John Howard who said he’s wanted this bypass to happen for more than 10 years.

“Of course it’s a concern for that area north of the city, but I hope it will coincide with reworking those exit ramps,” he said. “But it won’t increase the volume. It will be more folks entering and leaving Broad Street right at Deer Acres so there is going to be more congestion due to traffic, but not more traffic.”

Howard said he sees the benefits to the downtown merchants and business owners who have long complained about the dangers, and noise, of large trucks driving on Broad Street through the downtown area. While there are some who are concerned that it may also cause potential shoppers to bypass the shopping zone, it is believed that the safety for people who are walking downtown is more important.

“We will just have to stress that it is truck route and not a bypass,” Monroe downtown business owner and Councilwoman Lee Malcom said while in attendance at the Georgia DOT Open House.

“I think it will have a positive effect,” Howard said. “You will be able to have lunch in one of the outdoor restaurants without having to scream and when we have our concerts, there won’t be large trucks driving through town.”

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