Interstate work may aid Ocmulgee trail

jgaines@macon.comDecember 9, 2012 

The planned widening of Interstates 16 and 75 through Macon will take some land near the Ocmulgee Heritage Trail, but may actually result in extending the trail toward its goal, the Amerson River Park.

The Georgia Department of Transportation is offering $249,800 for 23 fragments of land, totaling about 5 acres, along the course of the interstate project.

An ordinance from Macon Mayor Robert Reichert outlining a property deal is headed to the city Public Properties Committee.

“What’s happening is, GDOT is going to redevelop 16 and 75, and in that process they will impact the trail north and south of Spring Street,” said Mike Ford, president and CEO of NewTown Macon.

The land is divided into scattered fragments; a dozen parcels are described as culverts. It would be used either for the reconstructed interchange or as part of GDOT’s impact-mitigation plan, according to the ordinance.

The city owns most of the land, but a few plots are in the hands of the Macon-Bibb County Urban Development Authority.

“The property the trail sits on is several different parcels that were acquired at different times,” said Alex Morrison, UDA executive director.

Reichert is handling negotiations for the UDA, but the general understanding is that the money both city and development agency get for the land will go toward improving the heritage trail, Morrison said.

“To the extent the trail’s impacted, (GDOT) would fix it as part of the 16/75 project,” Ford said.

“Any damage they do to the trail, they’re going to restore.”

The state will have to build temporary bridges over the river while a new one is under construction, and it’s possible that those “temporary” structures could remain as pedestrian crossings once the interstate work is finished, Ford said.

That would let walkers get on the trail at Spring Street and head north to Amerson River Park, he said.

Connecting the existing trail to the park is expected to cost roughly $2 million; that money is the project’s greatest remaining need, Ford said.

A quarter-million dollars from GDOT would build a substantial section of the remaining length, he said.

To contact writer Jim Gaines call 744-4489.

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