I wrote this a while back about Forest Hill Road, which is a big deal here in Macon, but didn't publish it until now:
One thing I'm trying not to do here is take sides. Objectivity — and better yet, fairness — is crucial in the newspaper business and I think I've got a reputation for both.
But sometimes an objective look at things leads to pretty obvious conclusions. Other times people are far apart. So what you do is look for things in common and use that as a starting point for negotiation.
Which brings me to Bibb County's sales-tax-financed roads program.
Yeah, there's a committee that makes decisions about what projects to do and when to do them, but the basic plan was set out in 1994, when the penny tax passed.
Folks, that was 13 years ago. Bibb County has changed. And road projects aren't about the traffic you have now, they're about the traffic you'll have in the coming years. So I think it's reasonable to suggest that the few projects left in the massive program be re-evaluated and a new list of priorities reached.
We've got huge new shopping centers opening in the Bass Road area. Do we really need to widen Forest Hill Road, if one of the destinations that widening is meant for is the Macon Mall?
People have been fighting over the Downtown Connector for years. Is it time to just kill that thing and use the money elsewhere?
The Northwest Parkway has been discussed for years, and it doesn't exist.
Now, to be fair, we've got good number folks at planning and zoning constantly re-crunching numbers. But, in that same sense of fairness, it's clear that there are reasonable questions about the validity of those very numbers — especially along Forest Hill Road. I'm not the only one asking them: CAUTION Macon's environmental watchdogs have been saying this stuff like a broken record.
Research I did for an article in March of 2006 showed wide variation in various traffic predictions along the road. But perhaps of greater concern was the fact that predictions on water runoff from the road project were figured differently than any other construction project in town. The road project was allowed to use a much larger area when figuring runoff than Wal-Mart or ACE Hardware would have been allowed to. That depressed the runoff figures.
Any way, we have elected leaders who were voted in to decide these things, and for now they're on board with Forest Hill Road and some of these other road projects. But the votes in various roads committees have been close, so there's a difference of opinion.
All I'm really saying is let's be careful about making major growth decisions based on old or questionable data. And don't treat environmental activists like crazy people when they suggest another way forward. Even if some of them are kind of annoying.