Roads program OKs 5-lane Houston Road
By Jennifer Plunkett
The Macon Telegraph
Road program officials approved plans Thursday to widen Houston Road to five lanes and gave Moreland Altobelli officials the go-ahead to hire a contractor for the project.
The executive committee of the Macon-Bibb County Road Improvement Program unanimously approved the plan after members said a traffic study justified that the five lanes were needed to handle residential development expected in south Bibb County.
The five-lane project has been opposed by residents and questioned by road consultant Walter Kulash, who said the wide road would result in strip retail development.
Residents earlier proposed an alternative project that featured a two-lane Houston Road with a turn lane at intersections and a different location for the planned Sardis Church Road interchange. They questioned the validity of the traffic counts used to justify the road program's plans.
"You allow that kind of development, you better get ready for more traffic," resident Marilyn Meggs said.
Houston Road is one of 67 projects in the $300 million city-county roads program. Kulash was hired by project manager Moreland Altobelli in response to residents' requests for design changes that would preserve the character of neighborhoods.
Earlier this week, Kulash criticized the Houston Road plan but declined to offer a recommendation for changes, saying that would go beyond the scope of his consulting work.
However, he faxed a memo to the road program's executive committee Thursday morning stating that public reaction to his decision compelled him to request he be allowed to issue an opinion on Houston Road.
The committee did not consider Kulash's Thursday memo and proceeded with the vote.
Moreland Altobelli principal engineer Tom Moreland said Kulash did not act properly when he sent a fax at the last minute to officials.
"That injects further chaos into the process," Moreland said. "I think (residents) will see that the road is not going to do all the bad things you think it will do. But let's not delay it any further."
Kulash could not be reached for comment.
To date, the program has spent nearly $1.7 million on the Houston Road project, acquiring rights of way and designing plans.
In other business, the executive committee: