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A GDOT map of a portion of the planned route work leading from Highway 515 into Jasper.

Massive Hwy. 53 project lurches forward

     According to Georgia Department of Transportation officials, a massive Highway 53 project that has languished for decades will go to bid September 2024, with right-of-way acquisitions now underway.

            The project will bring big changes to the section of Highway 53 between Highway 515 and downtown Jasper, including widening and the addition of two lanes, to four total, as well as one-way sections in another area.

            GDOT approved the location and design for the project in July 2022.

            “Right-of-way acquisition recently got underway for the project,” GDOT District 6 Communication Officer Joe Schulman confirmed with the Progress this week. “Currently, the project has a scheduled let date of September 2024, but that could change if more time is needed to acquire [right-of-ways]. We are planning to hold another Public Information Open House either this spring or summer.”

            This project has been on the books for at least two decades, with former city leaders questioning at points if it would ever come to fruition. GDOT records show that preliminary engineering was performed in 1992, then again in 2014 and 2017. A public hearing was held in 2007 and another in 2014, the latter of which drew nearly 60 attendees.

Map/Georgia Department of Transportation
GDOT is in the process of purchasing right-of-way acquisitions for a project that has been on the state agency’s radar since at least 1992, a signal that after so many years it could finally see the light of day.

            Here is a more detailed description of the project, as provided by GDOT:

            “This project is the widening and reconstruction of SR 53 Business (BU) in the city of Jasper. The project begins at the intersection of SR 515 and SR 53 BU and continues to the intersection of East Spring Street and Burnt Mountain Road.

            The total project length is approximately 2.6 miles, including a one-way pair section.

            The project consists of widening SR 53 BU from two-lanes to four 11-foot lanes with a 16-foot raised median and urban shoulders from the intersection of SR 515 to the intersection of Summit Street (near El

Roble Mexican Restaurant/ Marco’s Pizza), where the project splits into two one-way pairs, each proposed as two 11-foot lanes with urban shoulders. The one-way pairs continue eastward, with the westbound segment following the SR 53 BU alignment and the eastbound segment on a combination of new location and existing alignments of Industrial Boulevard and Spring Street. The one-way pairs merge at the intersection of East Spring Street and Burnt Mountain Road, which is the eastern terminus of the project.

            Construction duration is estimated to be 30 months, as recommended at the 2018 Preliminary Field Plan Review (PFPR). An offsite detour is not proposed for the project.”

            GDOT records show the following cost estimates: preliminary engineering, $5.26 million; right-of-way acquisition; $8.21 million; utilities, $600,311; construction, $24.02 million. (Construction and utilities estimates were performed in July 2022.)

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