It’s gone rather unnoticed to many, but a major road upgrade is just about complete in Jackson County.
The 4-lane project from Arcade to Athens on Hwy. 129 is now open with two lanes in both directions, connecting Athens all the way to I-85 with a faster, safer road.
This road upgrade may prove to have a big impact on Jackson County in the years to come. For one thing, it could spur additional residential and commercial growth in the South Jackson area by offering better transportation to Athens.
Although the South Jackson area has had some residential growth from Athens, that has been greatly overshadowed by Athens’ spread into Oconee County. But now with available water and a better road system, the South Jackson area could see some of the Athens overflow — white flight — moving its way.
But the real impact of the 4-lane Hwy. 129 from I-85 to Athens through Jackson County may be from the North to South. With a better road in place, growth moving up I-85 could find its way down into the central and southern part of Jackson County.
That was the idea behind developer investment in the 4-W farm in Arcade. With the housing market in a free fall, that project is probably on hold for a while. But in the long term, the corridor from I-85 to Athens could prove to be a major area of development in Jackson County. That’s especially true if Hwy. 316, running from Athens to Atlanta, remains a dangerous, crowded highway, forcing some to choose the Hwy. 129 route to I-85.
Now with both Hwy. 129 and Hwy. 441 being 4-laned, Jackson County has two major North-South transportation routes in place in addition to the pipeline of I-85 running East-West.
Those roads will be key parts of Jackson County’s future growth and development. The challenge now for local officials is to get ahead of that growth and make sure these are corridors don’t become smarmy, overdeveloped and overcrowded areas of ugly “suburban sprawl.”