More to bypass story than Citizen portrayed

Steve Brown's picture

I read The Citizen article entitled, “Who needs W. F’ville Bypass?” Of course, “who” is the optimal word in that headline.

If the matter did not have such significant consequences along with a huge price tag, I would have found Fayette County Chairman Jack Smith’s comments humorous. In addition, you will see a stark resemblance to the propaganda job used to sell the failed TDK Extension.

In politics, the easiest way to get something is to stretch the truth.

First, the bypass was said to cost $29.7 million. However, according to “Volume II FY 2008-2013 Transportation Improvement Program,” the official guide to transportation projects by the Atlanta Regional Commission, just the cost of Phase III of the bypass, alone, is $37.5 million. Actually, the cost of the entire bypass is around $51 million.

A map highlighting the large developer-owned tracts along the second phase of the road, which travels through central Fayette County, was included on Page A8 of last week’s Citizen.

A while back, Chairman Smith and the County Commissioners tried a neat little trick to get everyone to swallow the $51 million road we do not need: rename it. Instead of “bypass,” they renamed it “parkway.” Likewise, Smith made comparisons with Peachtree Parkway, a well-traveled thoroughfare.

Smith, serving on the board of a local bank that heavily funds local developers, had no idea how accurate his comparison was, as Peachtree Parkway was built to spur more development along its path, only the developers footed the bill, not the taxpayers. Thus, widening the roads via the bypass and creating better access will undoubtedly promote development in that corridor.

The failed TDK Extension, a road Smith supported, was exactly the same way, as the Coweta developers knew road access was crucial. The Coweta developers had road access to their property already, but, as the private and government engineers pointed out, their development projects required vastly improved road access.

The most implausible portion of the Smith propaganda was, “Once all three phases of the bypass are complete, motorists traveling up Ga. Highway 85 South will be able to avoid downtown Fayetteville and use Hwy. 92 to take several rural roads into Fulton County to reach Ga. Highway 138 and ultimately, Interstate 85.” A bit far-fetched, indeed.

Smith and the commissioners have a bypass running into another county having to rely on “several rural roads” downward along Ga. Highway 138 to an already clogged interchange at Interstate 85. That’s the $51 million solution?

“Chairman Jack Smith insists the project remains necessary even as the economy has practically halted residential growth in surrounding counties, including Fayette.” The project is not even practical, much less necessary.

Ask Smith about the studies and models to verify the bypass solution, because none were performed for that project. If the bypass was really about efficient management of traffic, why did the Atlanta Regional Commission refuse to provide any funding for the project, citing poor bang for the buck?

I agree with Smith’s talk about having to deal with traffic, but is the bypass, again, much like the TDK Extension, really about providing traffic relief?

Meanwhile, Smith and the commissioners continue to deny that the defeated SPLOST referendum was a mandate from the voters to stop the frivolous spending.

The propaganda continued, “Smith said the county cannot divert funds to the cities because it is bound by law to address only those projects that are on the SPLOST referendum.” So how does Smith explain the extension of Phase III of the bypass that was not included in the referendum?

That’s right; the bypass buried in the referendum did not link to Hwy. 92. Smith is making it up as he goes.

Smith knows the wasted $51 million can go to other SPLOST projects not funded and transportation assignments. State law also allows for the retirement of debt which commissioners placed in the last SPLOST referendum.

Furthermore, since the bypass has been proven a traffic relief fraud, they could simply obtain local legislation through the General Assembly to clearly repurpose the funds for any application deemed suitable.

Smith said, “So if the SPLOST said this must be used for roads, you can’t hire public works people with it.” Peachtree City would like to use a portion of the wasted funds for roads and cart paths, so why not?

The most disturbing part was Smith is supporting the creation of “an access road stretching from Ga. Highway 74 to Hwy. 92, with Hwy. 74 losing its direct I-85 access.” That is ridiculous, and our commissioners support it. Anyone who commutes from Brooks, Peachtree City, Tyrone, Senoia, etc., up Hwy. 74 North, is going to take a beating with that plan.

I always supported the half-diamond interchange (facing northward) on Hwy. 92 IN CONJUNCTION with the interchange at Hwy. 74 so the tractor trailers trucks from the millions upon millions of square feet of currently idle warehouse space to the north would not have to mix and congest the flow of traffic.

Now, Smith wants to nix the Hwy. 74 interchange, our county’s most immediate link to an interstate highway, and totally mix the industrial traffic from Fulton County in the flow.

In an attempt to make his badly flawed bypass appear more logical by eliminating the interchange at Hwy. 74 and moving it to Hwy. 92, Smith is going to create a commuting nightmare for those of us living on the western half of the county.

Add to this Smith’s glowing support of bringing a bus system we cannot afford to Fayette County, with a projected population of only 160,860 by 2030 (source: Atlanta Regional Commission), and we are heading toward an expensive, congested disaster.

There is an election for three of our county commissioners coming up this November. I hope you are paying attention.

[Steve Brown is the former mayor of Peachtree City. He can be reached at stevebrownptc@ureach.com.]

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