By: Emma Wheeler | WCTV Eyewitness News
June 10, 2019
VALDOSTA, Ga. (WCTV) -- A route for trucks to bypass downtown Valdosta is back on the table.
The Georgia Department of Transportation is proposing two options south of downtown.
"There's always danger, certain trucks. giant semis, stuff like that coming down central," said Joe Martin.
Martin, who works at Jessie's Catering near the intersection of Ashley Street and Central Avenue, added, while the truck traffic doesn't bother him, it does have an impact on restaurant guests.
The city has been looking at how to get trucks out of downtown for years but, because the corridor is federally designed as a truck route, the local municipalities can't impose any regulations on truck traffic.
The options proposed by GDOT could move the designated route, shifting Central and Hill Avenues to being under local jurisdiction.
Hill Ave. and Central Ave. are the main routes for anyone to get through downtown Valdosta, from cars to semi-trucks. GDOT estimates that more than 1,200 semis take these roads every single day.
The department is looking at two potential routes; the first option is to extend the Saint Augustine Road railroad overpass, a project slated to start in 2028.
It would then go all around the industrial area south of downtown.
This option is estimated to cost about $55 million. That dollar amount does not include the $19 million being allocated to the Saint Augustine overpass project, included in the T-SPLOST, approved by South Georgia voters last May.
Option two would build an overpass over I-75, west of downtown and meet back up with Highway 84, near Inner Perimeter.
Valdosta Mayor John Gayle made it a goal of his eight years ago, while he was still on the campaign trail, to build a truck bypass.
"It destroys the character of downtown, quite honestly. We have so many functions down here now, if you have a function on the courthouse square you can't hear the music being played and things like that because of the truck traffic, and it's dangerous," Gayle said. "It's just a situation that we don't need, we need to get these trucks around downtown. Go south of town, I mean, as you see it's hard to even hear yourself think sometimes because of all the traffic."
While this is a big step forward in making a bypass happen, there is still a long road ahead before any construction is underway. There will be opportunities for public input as the project moves forward.
The two project options, along with variations, are now moving onto the Valdosta-Lowndes Metropolitan Planning Organization to find out more about funding and engineering studies.