Georgia Department of Transportation officials sought public input Thursday night on the design of noise barriers to be built along Interstate 75 through the Pleasant Hill neighborhood, but much of what they got was resentment that the state plans to work there at all.
About 40 people turned out for a presentation at the Booker T. Washington Community Center on Monroe Street. Several consultants and many GDOT staff members were there to talk about the project and answer questions.
As part of a much larger reconstruction of the I-75 and I-16 interchange, the state plans to build concrete walls along I-75 where it splits Pleasant Hill in half.
Where warranted by federal guidelines, were proposing sound and noise barriers, said Brad Hale of engineering firm Moreland Altobelli. In front of some walls there will be room for trees and shrubs, he said.
The plan calls for walls 20 to 30 feet high along the west side of the interstate from Hardeman Avenue to Walnut Street, with shorter sections on either side of the Riverside Drive overpass; and on the east side, from near Hardeman Avenue almost to Riverside Drive, with a short section on the other side of that overpass.
Land purchase for the work is almost finished, Hale said.
Were working on final plans for the project, but the construction funding for this project right now is in fiscal 2018, he said.
Similar public talks will be held for the Riverside and Linwood Cemetery areas, and the Shirley Hills and North Highlands and Winship Hills neighborhoods, Hale said. Final designs should be ready in October or November, he said.
Designers asked if residents would prefer the walls to look like rough stonework, bear musical note or cherry blossom designs, or something else.
But Annie Cornelius of Northbrook Avenue said she lives just past where one wall is to end, and theres already too much road noise at her house.
Since were not getting the barriers, what we want to know is, are we going to get soundproofed windows in our homes? she asked. People on her street expect something from the project too, she said.
C. Jack Ellis, candidate for Macon-Bibb County mayor, wanted the noise wall extended to shield his house on Monroe Street as well.
Amber Phillips, a GDOT noise specialist, said designers are constrained by a federal formula on where such barriers can go.
Peter Givens of the Pleasant Hill Neighborhood Improvement Group asked the state to reconsider materials. Hed rather see earthen berms and more trees, which he touted as absorbing noise rather than reflecting it.
But several in attendance denounced the idea of any further interstate work near Pleasant Hill.
Tommy Craig of consulting firm Enviro-Resolution said the state needs to deal with serious safety concerns on that stretch of interstate, and must deal with the road as it is now to do so.
The reason for this is not to uproot and disrupt your lives and your neighborhood, he said.
Karlene Barron, GDOT communications director, said the state recognizes that Pleasant Hill residents had reason to be angry when Interstate 75 bisected their neighborhood 50 years ago. But the new round of work includes many features meant to benefit the community, and designers are actively seeking input on what residents would prefer, she said.
Altogether, about $10 million is going into work in Pleasant Hill, not counting the actual road construction.
The state plans to turn the childhood home of Little Richard Penniman, now on Fifth Avenue, into a community resource center and move it to one of two new parks. Another 25 houses will be renovated at state expense and moved to now-vacant lots; half a dozen owner-occupants will be able to stay in the renovated houses or move to new ones at no cost.
Other work in the neighborhood includes replacing the chain-link barrier with solid sound and sight buffers. The pedestrian bridge over the interstate will be rebuilt, with better lighting and without its sharp corners. An open culvert will be covered, and streets for blocks around are expected to get new asphalt, sidewalks, landscaping and lighting.
To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.