School has started back. With it, the leaves are beginning their color migration from green to yellows, oranges and reds before detaching and floating toward ground. Soon they’ll be crunchy and brown.
Every year, at the same time, the metallic grinding of a slow moving line of cars ever growing and creeping this way and that on Bass Road begins. Parents take their kids to school at both ends.
On one end, the Academy for Classical Education backs up traffic across the interstate bridge and down Bass Road to Rivoli. It is not uncommon for traffic to run in an unbroken chain from the four way stop at New Forsyth Road all the way to Rivoli. Traffic creeps at a pace no faster than a snail. Traffic at connecting roads in connecting neighborhoods back up, desperate to get into the line.
On the other end, traffic to First Presbyterian Day School combined with traffic going to Sonny Carter and Stratford begins a slow pile up each morning at Bass and Zebulon. The mornings are always worse because parents are going to work at the same time as school traffic. The afternoons in both directions are bad, but at least mitigated by work schedules and school schedules not overlapping.
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The county recognizes the need to expand Bass Road. But the county can do nothing until the state expands the bridge over the interstate. A few months ago, while schools were out, the state put up traffic counters around the bridge. Despite schools being out for the summer, allegedly, the state got enough data to realize it needs to escalate the time frame for that bridge. As new development begins on and around Bass Road, it will only get worse.
Meanwhile, a few miles away the daily grind of machines continues the rebuilding and renovating of Forest Hill Road. Construction for that expansion began long after the need had subsided. To be sure, expansion is still useful there, but the real needs for that expansion, e.g. connection from north Macon to the Macon Mall, etc., have long since moved north.
While all these projects grow or develop, we all wait with bated breath for the state to begin construction on Macon’s own spaghetti junction that will, in a decade, tower over the Ocmulgee at the connection of Interstate 75 and Interstate 16. The other day, Michigan announced an expansion of I-75 in that state. It will take Michigan 14 years to complete its expansion. The new interchange in Macon will, thankfully, not take that long. But it will still be highly disruptive. And will it do much good?
Our road planning is more often reactive than proactive. Engineers guesstimate where populations will shift, they then draft up plans for infrastructure based on those guesses, then watch as populations shift in directions completely unplanned. Everyone then plays catchup. Roads back up, development increases, roads back up some more, road rage begins, then infrastructure planning begins again. It is an inevitable cycle.
If Macon every really commits itself to growth beyond just distribution warehouses at the interstate, all of us are going to need to be prepared for the costs. We have new development already coming with roads already at capacity on the north side of the county. Spill over from Houston County also affects the south side. One prediction we can make for sure is that we will more and more build towards Atlanta. So we might need to cast our eyes to the Monroe-Bibb county line and figure out now what tomorrow should look like.
Erick Erickson is a Fox News contributor and radio talk show host in Atlanta.