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Monday, January 7, 2013 - 12:12pm

Rural Highway Connects Small Towns

The end of a 20-year road project is now in sight.

The state Department of Transportation last week announced construction will begin soon on the final piece of the Fall Line Freeway. The four-lane, divided highway will improve access to communities like Sandersville, where two big projects are about to take off.

In September, General Biofuels announced plans to make wood pellets in a $65 million Sandersville facility with production supposed to begin early next year.

Charles Lee heads economic development for Washington County, halfway between Macon and Augusta and just east of the final section of the Fall Line Freeway. He said the wood-pellet plant in Sandersville will be a key beneficiary of the road.

“[The four-lane road] will give those feedstock suppliers ready access into and around Washington County to bring that feedstock in here to the manufacturing plant so that it can then be processed into wood pellets,” said Lee, who is also president of the county’s chamber of commerce.

The county also will be home to a new $2 billion coal-fired power plant planned to go online in about five years.

Lee said he also looks forward to tourism opportunities for a wider, more highly traveled road through the area.

“Letting [Washington County and Sandersville] be a destination or an intermediate stopping point is certainly critical,” he said. “We see potential for development along the Fall Line corridor for, let’s just say, for truck stops, for convenience stores, for motel space and things of that nature.”

The Fall Line Freeway is scheduled to fully open at the end of 2015. It roughly bisects the state from Columbus through Macon and on to Augusta. It’s been in the works for more than 20 years at a cost of $500 million.