As the 1940s drew to a close, most of the roads through the north Georgia mountains were steep, winding, and rarely paved. Contractors faced unusual challenges building and paving new roads.
In 1948 the Ledbetter Construction Company, from Rome, began work on a section of the road from Hiawassee to Clayton, grading, relocating, clearing, and grubbing in preparation for a bituminous surface treatment. Caterpillar tractors pulled scrapers, pans, and a sheepsfoot roller, and a Cat® motor grader smoothed the surface for final preparations.
Meanwhile, Hardaway Contracting Company of Columbus was widening and relocating about eight miles of road from Turner’s Corner past Desoto Falls to Neels Gap, at the base of Blood Mountain. The eleven-foot-wide mountain road had long since been determined inadequate to handle traffic between Gainesville and Murphy, North Carolina. The new road would be thirty feet wide with a bituminous surface and would eliminate many of the steep grades, switchbacks, and hairpin curves that were virtually impossible to navigate in bad weather.
Hardaway used two crews starting at each end of the job and meeting in the middle with a wide assortment of equipment, including Caterpillar D8 tractors and Cat® 12 motor graders.
MacDougald Construction Company of Atlanta took on yet another mountain road project, a 2.8-mile section of the thirteen-mile road from Blue Ridge to Copperhill, Tennessee. Oddly, the MacDougald project, as designed by the Georgia State Highway Commission, was straight as a ruler, without regard to mountains and gorges.
Gentry and Thompson Construction Company was subcontracted for the construction of five culverts, and workmen began by hewing a mile-long straight road into the forest for equipment to be brought in. Heavy rains made it impossible for a truck hauling equipment to cross that road, so Lou Gentry used his Caterpillar D2 tractor to pull the truck with the equipment through the mud to the job site. In seventeen days, including the time taken to clear the way, Gentry had completed the culverts. From that point on, MacDougald’s work went quickly and smoothly.
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Post-War Boom 1948 - 1959