Group backs Reichert's road plans for Fall Line Freeway, Second Street

The area’s regional transportation planning agency threw its support Wednesday behind Macon Mayor Robert Reichert’s idea for a new Fall Line Freeway connector and a new entry into downtown.

The agency, Macon Area Transportation Study, will simultaneously ask the state to include the projects in its plans and start lobbying U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall, D-Macon, and the state’s two U.S. senators for funding. The three projects could get funded through congressional earmarks, said Jim Thomas, executive director of the Macon-Bibb County Planning and Zoning Commission.

Thomas said the freeway would be the most costly, with the state estimating $90 million just to get across wetlands between Robins Air Force Base and Macon. Reichert’s proposed road would connect the Sardis Church Road and Byron exits of Interstate 75 to Sgoda Road and Interstate 16 in Twiggs County.

Earlier proposals to extend Eisenhower Parkway through the wetlands — and the Ocmulgee National Monument — are considered dead. Reichert’s proposed route would be about four miles south of the city limits.

The other projects are smaller. Reichert wants Second Street to become the new entryway to Macon, with a tree-lined boulevard stretching from I-16 to Mercer University.

Challenges include replacing the Second Street railroad bridge, which has an unusually steep angle.

Bill Causey, who heads the city’s engineering department, said the Second Street project is estimated at $18 million.

The third project is smaller and would establish a truck route on Seventh Street to divert logging trucks and other heavy vehicles from the city’s museum district on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Causey said the project would cost about $750,000, with most of the money creating a new roundabout at Seventh and Walnut streets to make it easier for trucks to turn.

The Citizens Advisory Committee to the transportation agency also threw its support behind the projects.

It called the Second Street plan “so much better than anything we have seen in the local roads projects in many years” and said the company that drafted plans, Interface Studio, should work on other controversial projects.

The committee also said the I-16/I-75 connector would help Robins Air Force Base, reduce truck traffic in Macon and improve the overall quality of life.

Thomas said he expects Macon Area Transportation Study’s chairman, Bibb County Commission Chairman Sam Hart, will send a letter to the three members of Congress in the next few weeks requesting the project. He said he expects the state will add it to a draft transportation improvement plan, essentially as unfunded ideas.

A draft transportation improvement plan released Wednesday shows about $13 million in new projects.

Most of that money, about $7.8 million, would buy right-of-way for future widening of I-16 and I-75 near their interchange.

Other projects include $2.4 million to replace bridges on Riverside Drive between I-75 and The Shoppes at River Crossing, and $1.3 million with Norfolk Southern to replace Brosnan Yard equipment that would lower pollution.

In future years, the state also plans to buy more right-of-way for widening projects on Forest Hill Road and Jeffersonville Highway.

Forest Hill Road construction would start in fiscal 2014, according to the draft plan.

To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.