For those who live along or travel Forest Hill Road, there seems to be two points of consensus: The road needs to be widened in at least a few places, and the pothole-prone stretch needs repair.
But officials and residents say they dont think any of that work will happen anytime soon.
Between a lawsuit filed by local roads activist Lindsay Doc Holliday against the Georgia Department of Transportation last December, and Wednesdays decision by the Macon Area Transportation Study committee to remove the road from the draft of its short-term plan, it doesnt appear likely the road will soon get the repair work it needs.
Brooks Dantzler, a Macon resident who spoke at Wednesdays MATS meeting against the current design plan for the road, said the MATS vote doesnt feel like much of a victory because the issue continues to drag along.
I guess Im as satisfied as I can be as long as were moving along (at) a snails pace, she said.
The main complaint from residents opposed to the state plan for the north Macon roadway is that the plan is overdesigned, with the plan calling for expanding to four or seven lanes in some areas.
Some portion of the road -- mainly the stretch from Vineville Avenue to Wimbish Road -- is owned by the county. Bibb County Chairman Sam Hart and Commissioner Gary Bechtel, who serves the district in which Forest Hill Road is located, both said Thursday the county is obligated to repair the section it controls.
But the rest of the road is controlled by the DOT, and the county has no jurisdiction. DOT representative Kimberly Larson said the state would repair portions of the road where there is currently no roadwork being done or about to begin. Those sections are controlled by the contractors, she said, and repair work would only be done if there is a major traffic issue.
The committees decision means the state wont be authorized to spend more than $8 million to purchase the right-of-way land on Forest Hill between Wimbish and Vineville -- covering about six-tenths of a mile.
One of the reasons for the committees removal of Forest Hill Road from the draft of the short-range plan was Hollidays lawsuit. Some who voted in favor of removing Forest Hill Road from the draft, including Bibb County Commissioner Lonzy Edwards, said they wanted to wait for a resolution in the legal case so they could better make plans for the road.
Bechtel said he will make a point with other county commissioners that the county needs to address any issues with the road, at least with the portion it controls.
The bottom line is, this decision leads us in a certain direction, and were going to address it with local money thats not addressed by DOT or Federal Highway (Administration) money, he said.
Hart said he met with DOT officials last week and would like to maintain a dialogue with the agency to make sure necessary work gets done.
Im very committed to do something with Forest Hill Road, he said. Something needs to be done. ... (I) want to see if we can negotiate a decision on that property. Thats why we need to talk about this. Deferring this gives us some time for communication. I dont want to have an adversarial issue with the state.
Holliday said the situation with the DOT has become nothing but adversarial, and local residents need to pressure the agency to live up to its obligations. He said the DOT has been more beholden to its contractors than it has to neighborhood residents.
(The road) is already in neglect, and the state needs to do what we pay them to do, he said. Theyre clearly extorting the public. ... Theyve got the money and the power to do what they want to do.
Hart and Bechtel noted that Houston County has greater control of its road designs thanks to a special county penny tax approved by voters there. They said Macon-Bibbs new government might need a similar remedy.
But Holliday said he doesnt want local money spent on the Forest Hill Road project, since the DOT is funded by tax dollars. He said he would rather the county join him in his lawsuit against the DOT.
Thatd be the quickest solution -- not let GDOT make us do what theyre supposed to be doing for us, he said.
Holliday said his lawsuit is still in the discovery phase and that a court date hasnt been set.
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.