Hey, Roswell. Welcome to our world, where we can't see the forest for the trees the DOT cut down.
Folks in this community north of Atlanta are riled up because the Georgia Department of Transportation has crews working on Georgia 400, whacking down miles of trees along the roadside.
Sound familiar? It should. Just over a year ago, the DOT's 10-year, $600 million initiative (yep, $600 million, complains Kent Igleheart, a Roswell City Council member) sawed its way down Interstate 20, starting around Belair Road.
The mess is all cleaned up now, but what is supposed to be a safety program -- keeping cars from hitting trees when they run off the road -- certainly made the residents of nearby subdivisions feel less safe. Instead of hitting trees, vehicles leaving the road can now travel unimpeded to crash into their homes.
Maybe a swingset or two would at least slow down a tractor-trailer, eh?
It's also made the noise from the interstate a lot worse. The feds have approved $200,000 for a noise barrier, but it will probably be a while before the money trickles down to Grovetown. And some consultant will probably have to bite off a chunk of it first, to confirm that yes, indeed, it's noisy by the interstate.
The DOT just keeps cutting, even though practically no one else believes the trees should be removed (except for the tree-cutting contractors getting those millions of dollars). While the DOT's "safety" spending is designed to protect motorists from trees, they won't budge toward putting up crossover barriers to keep vehicles from running across the median and hitting oncoming traffic, such as the crash that two years ago killed Harlem's Andrew Hawkinberry.
Meanwhile, the DOT's Furys Ferry Road widening project is more than a year behind schedule. They blame the private contractor, who blames Georgia Power; the rest of us, stalled in bumper-to-bumper traffic, just cuss and fume -- or blame Columbia County officials, who have nothing to do with it.
Those county officials, who also have nothing to do with Washington Road -- which is owned by state and controlled by the DOT -- have gotten tired of such delays and are planning to spend $1 million to extend the road's center turn lane further west.
The money is coming from sales taxes. Some citizens may specifically remember, during the debate over the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Evans, that county commissioners emphatically said the county wouldn't spend a dime for traffic improvements for the megastore.
But memories are short, and things have changed. Commissioners can plausibly say that this turn-lane extension isn't just because of Wal-Mart, but because residents of nearby subdivisions can't get out of their entrances, and because new businesses across from Wal-Mart are having a heavy impact on traffic.
The fact is, if the county hadn't stepped in, it wouldn't get done. The DOT has plans for Washington Road improvements that possibly will help traffic and improve safety on the heavily traveled highway, but they don't expect to start work for at least another five years.
Which, coincidentally, will be about the same time they finish cutting down all those trees along the interstates. Heck, maybe Furys Ferry will be finished by then, too.
Not making this up
Newsflash: The Muslim American Political Action Committee just announced Monday that it is endorsing John Kerry for president.
Feel free to provide your own punch line. Send it to me if you have a good one.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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