Talk of the Fall Line Freeway bypass south of Macon’s downtown is back.
Macon Mayor Robert Reichert offered a new proposal Wednesday to a regional planning group, which agreed to look at his suggestion. Bibb County commissioners are interested, and one frequent road critic thinks the plan may have merit.
The original route was supposed to have extended Eisenhower Parkway east through swampland, the Traditional Cultural Property of the Muscogee Indians and land intended to be annexed into the Ocmulgee National Monument.
The new proposal goes much farther to the south, starting in Byron, pushing south of the Middle Georgia Regional Airport in south Bibb County, and ultimately cutting across several miles of wetlands to tie into Interstate 16 in Twiggs County and a connection to Ga. 57. The route connects to Interstate 75 through Ga. 49 in Byron and through an under-construction interchange at Sardis Church Road in south Bibb County.
The Macon mayor’s proposal would keep the road more than four miles outside the city limits. He said he’s more interested in the route than the Fall Line Freeway name.
Reichert said the proposal could relieve traffic congestion in Macon, create more economic development opportunities and make it much easier to reach Robins Air Force Base from Interstate 16.
Reichert said he’s thinking regionally about the plan — and things that benefit Macon, Bibb County, Houston County and Twiggs County benefit the others.
“What I’m trying to do is build this transportation and logistics hub in south Bibb, north Houston County that would have rail, air and highway connections,” he said. “Plenty of land out there for industrial parks. It also provides a front door for Robins Air Force Base from I-16.”
Bibb County Commissioner Elmo Richardson, an engineer, said officials have been talking about the proposal, which could bring needed help for the base. Richardson said the project has big hurdles of time, money and environment.
“You’ve got to bridge the Ocmulgee River, you’ve got to bridge some swampy areas, and there’s a lot of environmental considerations as well,” he said. “It’ll take a lot of study and a lot of money, no question about that.”
Tom Scholl, a founder of the volunteer CAUTION Macon group that monitors road projects, said he was intrigued by bits he learned Wednesday at a Macon Area Transportation Study committee meeting. It seems like an alternative to an Eisenhower extension, he said.
“It seemed to be a thoughtful alternative that is well worth further study,” Scholl said.
Reichert said the Eisenhower Parkway extension is all but dead.
“It is not going to happen. It is as dead as a hammer,” he said.
Crystal Paulk-Buchanan, spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Transportation, said Wednesday that the Eisenhower Parkway Extension project is not officially off the state’s list of future road projects.
However, “the department has determined, considering the environmental complications and Georgia DOT’s inadequate funding resources, the department cannot pursue the project at this time,” she said.
Pieces of Reichert’s puzzle are falling into place. The state’s official Fall Line Freeway route moves from Ga. 49 east to I-75 in Byron. Reichert said the new route could run from there to U.S. 41 to the Sardis Church Road Extension and Avondale Mill Road that the state is working on. The new Sardis Church Road exit on I-75 provides another way to get to Ga. 247, he said.
From there, he wants to build a road from Ga. 247 to Sgoda Road, across swamps and a river, connecting the path to I-16. Drivers could then take U.S. 23/U.S.129 to connect to the rest of the Fall Line Freeway route, which picks up again at Ga. 57 toward Wilkinson County. Other segments of the proposed route between Columbus and Augusta have not been built. The route now follows I-75 to I-16 through Macon.
Telegraph staff writer S. Heather Duncan contributed to this report.
To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.