Thursday, September 20, 2007

Forest Hill and the Bibb County Roads Program

It's odd out there right now. So much is going on, and yet it seems quiet. The moment before the moment, so to speak.

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.

4 comments:

VictoratGaImproper said...
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4abettercity said...

I have watched this road project for a long time. If there ever was a time to re-think a road project this is it. The DOT has got to be responsive to the wants of the citizens. This is an incredible waste of taxpayer money. The chairman of the county commision apparently thinks any road project tossed our way is a good thing. Nevermind the terrible cost to the city and county when whole sections of neighborhoods are destroyed, property values in all surrounding areas crash and people flee for surrounding counties. We can ill afford to lose anymore intact functional neighborhoods for the sake of a superhighway to nowhere. It is ok to change your mind Comm. Bishop. The citizens of this county would see you as a positive, forward thinking, neighborhood loving county commisioner who isn't afraid to re-evaluate a position when better ideas come along. It is not too late!

setting the record straight- again said...

Thank you all for your concern about FHR. Here are the facts. Allen Peake went to Atlanta under the PRETENSE of being an advocate for the citizens of FHR, whom he represents. He never indicated to anyone from FHR that he was taking all the opposition (those bureaurcrats & elected county officials who either support the project or stand to gain unethically from its construction).He took five that I know of and none from the city, but he won't tell us who he took! His returning excuse was that the traffic counts furnished by GaDOT justified the project. Well, here are three sample years and their cumulative percentage increase or decrease. They are from GaDOT’s official web site. DOT uses three counters along the road so there will be
three daily traffic counts at each counter for each year, but they are not cumulative.Respectively, 1991, (2,467-6711-6244). 1998, (12,776-7679-9690). 2006, (13970,8020,10,250). Averaged over the time period, there is an annualized MINUS drop for each counter, respectively as: -.001%- .01%- .01%. No way anyone (but GaDOT, the county dunces and Allen Peake) can extrapolate (or project) anything but a flat growth rate for the past 15 years. Old Miss Macon, you are right on about Tucker Road, a two lane road. The traffic counts for Tucker and almost identical to FHR. Go figure!

By setting the record straight-again on 09.21.07 9:20 am

VictoratGaImproper said...
This comment has been removed by the author.