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  full story
man stands in front of beautiful, graceful, white-columned home
Jamie Rector/The Macon Telegraph
Lee Oliver stands for a portrait at the corner of Georgia Avenue and College Street with his home in the background. The yellow ribbons, which Lee's wife, Kitty, helped to put up, mark the trees in danger of removal in order to widen area streets.

Walter Kulash may be hired to look at aesthetics of all Bibb highway projects

By Lance Wallace
The Macon Telegraph

A Bibb County Commission committee agreed Tuesday to recommend that traffic engineer Walter Kulash, known for neighborhood-friendly road designs, review all Bibb County road projects.

The decision came after about 30 Bibb County residents representing many of Macon's neighborhoods vented their frustrations at a two-hour meeting of the commission's Public Works Committee.

"We've been criticized for years for not being pro-active. This is the first pro-active move we've made in 50 years."
- Bob Fountain,
Bibb County Engineer

And Van Etheridge, program manager for the Macon-Bibb County Road Improvement Program, who voiced his own frustrations with the road program, acknowledged that the controversial neighborhood projects could be nixed without adversely affecting overall traffic flow.

"These are not major transportation projects," Etheridge said. "These are the ones you can drop, and it won't affect the city's transportation system."

Aesthetic concerns have prompted opposition to some projects - and aesthetics, particularly in established neighborhoods, are Kulash's specialty.

Based in Orlando, Fla., Kulash was hired last month by Moreland Altobelli Associates Inc., the road engineering consulting firm hired to manage the $300 million city-county road improvement program.

Originally, Kulash was asked to look at only the Ingleside Avenue, Wesleyan Drive and Tucker Road projects.

The Executive Committee overseeing the road program will consider letting Kulash look at all projects at its 10 a.m. Thursday meeting at Moreland Altobelli's offices on the sixth floor of the Grand Building in the Bibb County Courthouse Annex.

Residents announced formation of "Citizens Against Unwanted Thoroughfares in Our Neighborhoods" Macon.

The group is planning a rally against the road program at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 15 at the Second Street entrance of the Bibb County Courthouse.

Those who attended Tuesday's 8:30 a.m. meeting complained that Moreland Altobelli was not responsive to residents, that representatives of the county who negotiated to purchase right-of-way from residents were underhanded, and accurate information on the projects was not easy to come by.

"None of us feels like we have had any opportunity to give input on the road improvement program," said Wesleyan Drive resident Gene Dunwody Sr. "We all looked after our own little piece, but we realized we had to band together to get anything accomplished."

CAUTION Macon was formed at the suggestion of Atlanta activist Tom Marney, who has led fights against road projects in the metro-Atlanta area.

The projects targeted by CAUTION Macon are Ingleside Avenue, Wesleyan Drive, Tucker Road, Houston Road, the Montpelier-Stadium Drive Connector, College Street at Georgia Avenue and Washington Avenue and Edna Place.

When County Commission Chairman Larry Justice suggested the neighborhood coalition voice its complaints through the road program's Citizen's Advisory Committee, the group balked.

"That's a bunch of bull," said Michael Ryan, who lives near the Mercer University campus and opposes the Montpelier-Stadium Drive Connector. "It doesn't mean anything. They don't have any power whatsoever. They were appointed by Larry Justice."

Ingleside Avenue property owner Lee Martin said Justice was trying to throw more red tape and hurdles at the group, now that it has organized.

"We've about had it," Martin said. "This is it. It's going to be embarrassing for the city if we have to shut this (road program) down."

After the residents were heard and left the meeting, the exasperated committee members heard from Van Etheridge, Moreland Altobelli's manager for the road program.

Etheridge said the big projects such as Northside Drive and a planned five-lane parkway from Bass Road to Eisenhower Parkway have not drawn opposition because people recognize the need to move traffic.

Etheridge and Moreland Altobelli principal engineer Tom Moreland both stressed during a July planning retreat that the road program needed to get back on track, even if it meant dropping projects.

"We've been criticized for years for not being pro-active," said Bibb County Engineer Bob Fountain. "This is the first pro-active move we've made in 50 years. We're struggling with it, but all we're trying to do is help our community grow into the 21st century."

*The road program's Technical Advisory Committee meets at 10 a.m. today at Moreland Altobelli's offices in the Grand Building.


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