Houston residents weigh in on widening Ga. 96

WARNER ROBINS — At a public hearing Tuesday, the Georgia Department of Transportation presented plans for a proposed widening of Ga. 96 that drew concern from residents who would be affected.

Extending from just east of Interstate 75 to Old Hawkinsville Road/Thompson Mill Road in a 10-mile stretch, the proposed plan would make that part of Ga. 96 four lanes all the way through to relieve traffic congestion in Bonaire and take increased business potential in the area into account, according to Georgia Department of Transportation communications officer Kimberly Larson.

The plan also would shift the intersection of Ga. 96 and Ga. 247 north of the existing Ga. 96. The new intersection, which would contain a partial cloverleaf interchange, would be located about 1,100 feet west of the existing intersection between Ga. 96 and county road 133/Old Perry Road. The project would then end at the current intersection between Ga. 96 and Old Hawkinsville Road/Thompson Mill Road.

Bike lanes and sidewalks would be included on both sides of the road for the entire length of the project.

The proposed plan is estimated to cost $70 million to $72 million, Larson said. The project would be completed in 18 to 24 months in three phases.

A few minutes after 5 p.m. Tuesday at David Perdue Elementary School, DOT officials had counted 181 people who attended the open house.

Some people were concerned that the proposal would force them to move to make way for the road changes. The proposed plan would displace 20 residences and two businesses.

Rachel Crumley and her husband, David, both 67, have lived in their home at 490 Old Hawkinsville Road near Ga. 96 since 1971 and would be forced to move under the proposed plan.

The Crumleys already lost three-quarters of an acre of land as a result of previous road improvement projects.

“There are vacant property fields behind and in front (of my house),” Rachel Crumley said. “Why do they have to go right through the middle of our home for the project?”

Furthermore, Rachel Crumley is concerned that leaving their home would more adversely affect her husband, who she said has dementia.

Part of the new Ga. 96 route will run through Loyd Lee’s almost 20 acres near the intersection of Thompson Mill Road and Ga. 96 and will force him to move.

Lee, 81, has lived there for more than 30 years and built the house he currently lives in.

“This is where I intend to be,” Lee said. “What good is a home if they take it from me?”

While Eddy O’Hearn, 58, will not need to leave his home on 423 Old Hawkinsville Road, he said the proposed route will run close by.

“We’ll be counting teeth as they drive by, it’ll be so close,” O’Hearn said.

Daniel Brown, the owner of Progressive Real Estate & Self Storage in Bonaire, said he has mixed feelings about the plans.

While he sees the expansion to four-lane roads as an improvement, a median placed in front of the entrance to his business will force 18-wheelers and other vehicles to make a U-turn at the intersection of Mount Zion Road and Ga. 96 to enter, depending on the direction of travel.

Doug Humphrey, 40, who lives near the intersection of Lake Joy Road and Ga. 96, said the road’s expansion will ultimately be positive, though it may take time to enjoy the benefits.

“It’ll be nice to ease traffic congestion, but during construction it’ll be a mess,” he said. “It ends up being a permanent fixture, but when it gets done it’ll be great.”

To contact writer Andrea Castillo, call 256-9751.