The U.S. Senate this week was scheduled to vote on a mammoth spending bill that dispenses pork liberally across the nations congressional districts.
Among the items in the $820 billion Consolidated Appropriations Act is $200,000 for noise barriers along Interstate 20. The barriers would take the place of a stand of mature trees, cut down just over a year ago by the Georgia Department of Transportation.
Those trees were removed in an effort to make the interstate safer for vehicles that might veer off the road. Unfortunately, while cutting those trees opened up the roadside, it also jacked up the noise levels in the Belglade, Caliburn Place and Crawford Mill subdivisions off Old Belair Road. And residents complain that taking down the trees made their homes less safe from those veering vehicles, too.
As far as a sound barrier, that would be nice, says Cleveland Holt Jr., a Caliburn Place resident whose house backs up to the now-treeless roadside. But we dont even have a guardrail - thats ridiculous.
Hes right. A 1999 tractor-trailer crash at the rear of the subdivisions has taken on almost mythical status as a warning about what could happen without the trees; the vehicle burst into flames after striking a pair of pines that no longer stand between the interstate and dozens of homes.
After removing the trees, Georgias DOT sympathized with residents; one official even visited the neighborhood and took a verbal whipping. But that didnt put the trees back, and DOT officials flatly say they have no plans to erect any barriers to replace them. The state budget is too tight to pay for such a project, they say.
Local elected officials pleaded their case to U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood. Columbia Countys 9th District congressman knows purely local uses of federal funds are nothing but pork, and roundly criticized such bloated spending at a Columbia County Republican Party breakfast.
Still, that didnt stop Norwood or other critics of big spending from voting in favor of the bill a couple of days later. Whether complaints about the size of the bill slow it down in the Senate is another matter.
Georgias DOT took down those trees, and it has an obligation to the people of that Grovetown community to replace them at least with a safety barrier - perhaps like the rails that protect other nearby subdivisions along the interstate.
But the taxpayers of the rest of the nation shouldnt be forced to spend their tax money on those barriers - and, likewise, Georgia citizens could afford the cost if our money wasnt instead being siphoned off through federal taxes to pay $500,000 for a water taxi service in Pittsburgh, or $250,000 for potato research in Aberdeen, Idaho, or $100,000 for the International Storytelling Center in Jonesborough, Tenn.
We agree with Norwoods locally stated position that such spending is wrong. We disagree with his Washington vote that allows it.
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