Pierce/I-75 project concerns linger

More than 60 people attended a meeting Thursday evening to express their concerns about plans to widen Interstate 75 and parts of Riverside Drive from Pierce Avenue to Arkwright Road.

The meeting, the third in a series of public forums, was held at Riverside United Methodist Church, 735 Pierce Ave. Lasting for nearly two hours, the residents — many representing areas central to the Georgia Department of Transportation project such as Huntington, Delano and Thornwood drives, Lee Road and Tiffen Circle — spoke mostly in opposition to the project.

Included in the planned project are the widening of I-75 to six lanes from south of Pierce Avenue to north of Arkwright Road, closing the existing southbound on and off ramps north and south of Pierce and replacing them with new ramps that will join Riverside Drive north of Pierce at the entrance to the Riverstreet Corners Shopping Center, and widening Riverside Drive at the new on and off ramps.

Several residents expressed worries about how the overhaul will impact the Riverview Road bridge over I-75, the flood zone and noise levels in their neighborhoods, and evacuation routes in the event of a large-scale emergency while construction is ongoing.

Changes to the access to Lee Road, which exits into Riverside Drive just north of planned new interstate access, also was a major concern.

Lee Johnson and Vic Jones, who have been active in organizing the residents, presented new details about the interstate project after riding along Wednesday with a DOT planner through neighborhoods likely to be affected.

Local engineer Dan Fisher and community activist Susan Martin, both of the Macon Area Transportation Study, helped Johnson and Jones field questions, helping to prepare the audience for an upcoming DOT meeting at the church May 7.

The event, from 4-7 p.m., will be the first opportunity for residents to meet with DOT officials and view their plans.

Johnson said transportation department representatives will accept concerns in written form and contact individuals within 10 business days. A court reporter will be present to take recorded statements for legal purposes.

The DOT declined to participate in a panel discussion with the public, Johnson said.

“I think that’s very unfair. They don’t want to do a public hearing because people will stand up and speak and give their opinion,” said Peg Jones, a resident of North Pine Knoll Drive. “This seems to be a tactic against public outcry.”

Martin said it will be important for residents and business owners to express their concerns with the project as plans are finalized — because plans are not yet finalized.

“I hope that they can just tweak this project so that it truly addresses local concerns and not just interstate concerns,” she said.

Macon City Councilman Rick Hutto, who previously met with DOT planners about the project, and Macon Police Chief Mike Burns attended the meeting.

Information from The Telegraph’s archives was used in this report.

To contact writer Ashley Tusan Joyner, call 744-4347.