Byline: MERRITT MELANCON
ATHENS - Interstate 3, a proposed highway that would link Savannah with Knoxville, Tenn., by way of East Georgia, has worried some residents of North Georgia mountain towns since it was proposed in 2004.
But opponents of I-3 now have hope that a new route won't pave over a swath of Northeast Georgia mountains.
The board of directors of the Stop I-3 Coalition, a nonprofit group that formed to fight the proposed route through the southern Appalachians, will meet Friday to discuss a possible design that would take the interstate
north through Greenville, S.C., instead of through the North Georgia mountains.
Officials still are studying how to build the highway and how much the project would cost, but U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, an Athens Republican, may file to change that study specifically to consider a route through Greenville, said Holly Demuth, executive director of the Stop I-3 Coalition.
I-3 was first proposed by former U.S. Rep. Max Burns, a Sylvania Republican, as a way to bring economic development to the southern Appalachian and Piedmont regions of Georgia. The project also was championed by the late U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood, and Congress approved $1.32 million to study the idea in 2005 as part of the federal Transportation Equity Act.
However, shortly after the study was approved, the governments of several Northeast Georgia counties came out in opposition to the project, arguing the highway would mar the natural beauty of the mountains that draws tourists. …