LaGRANGE — City staff on Tuesday offered City Council alternative proposals for a controversial road project aimed at connecting the hospital and country club areas.
Dubbed the Northwest Connector, the proposed 2 mile road has drawn criticism from residents in the Highland Country Club neighborhood who have raised concerns about the road’s planning process, as well as fears that it could lead to a bypass through their neighborhood.
The project is spearheaded by the city but would be partially funded using county-managed special-purpose, local-option sales taxes, commonly called SPLOST. The Callaway Land Trust, which owns parcels of land where the proposed road could be built, has offered to donate the right-of-way, along with $2 million toward the estimated $4.5 million construction cost.
City officials say the road is necessary to alleviate traffic on Vernon and Broad streets and Country Club Road. They also say the road would allow for quicker response times by emergency workers.
Five alternative proposals were presented: Millridge Connection, Hollis Hand Connection, Hart House and two variations of the original County Club Connection.
The Millridge Connection would be the longest road and connects Pegasus Parkway north through undeveloped land to the intersection of Cameron Mill and Jackson Creek Drive. There would be no Callaway financial contribution to this project, according to the city’s presentation, and would be the most expensive option because of the need to purchase right-of-way. Additionally, the Millridge Connection would not directly tie in to the hospital, and there are unaddressed issues with railroad crossings, which could cause additional expenses.
Hollis Hand Connection
The Hollis Hand Connection would run from the intersection of Vernon Woods Drive and Vernon Street to Hollis Hand Elementary School. The city staff’s presentation says there would be a need to acquire right-of-way from both the Callaway Foundation and a proposed subdivision developer, and there would be no Callaway financial contribution. Additionally, the Troup County Board of Education has opposed the idea, the presentation says. Concerns about traffic congestion and child safety also persist under this proposal, along with environmental issues.
Hart House Connection
Hart House Connection, the shortest proposal, cuts from Vernon Woods Drive northeast to Country Club Road north of Westwood Drive. City staff note there is a little benefit in this proposal for the northside of LaGrange and county residents. Atop that, there are concerns this proposal would encourage people to cut through neighborhood streets and there would be a need to acquire right-of-way, again with no financial contribution from the Callaway Foundation.
Two Northwest Connection proposals
The final two proposals, both variations of the original Northwest Connector proposal, remain as the city staff’s most “viable option,” the presentation says.
In the variation, the Northwest Connector exists as its original proposal with one major change. The road begins at Vernon Woods Drive, but instead of ending at Country Club Drive as first planned, a jog in the road veers it right to dead-end into Country Club Road about 350 feet south of the Country Club Drive. In this option, the Callaway Land Trust would donate right-of-way and the Callaway Foundation would donate $2 million toward road construction, according to the city’s presentation. There are safety concerns about the right-turn jog in the roadway, and city staff called it “operationally less efficient.”
The second variation, and the presentation’s final proposal, is basically the original Northwest Connector proposal. Under this proposal, the road begins at Vernon Woods Drive and ends at the intersection of Country Club Drive as originally planned. City staff maintain it is the “best solution,” the presentation says, and from a traffic engineering standpoint would be the safest option, city officials say. The proposal includes a possible roundabout for traffic calming and linear parks.
Road design and next steps
All five of the proposals are designed to link neighborhoods with major activity centers, such as the hospital, with neighborhoods and arterial roads. Additionally, the roads help establish a grid network, according to city staff, and would not be designed for freight traffic. Rather, each proposed road would be designed to carry low to moderate volumns of traffic and provide options for moving traffic off other roads and preventing congestion downtown.
David Brown, the city’s road engineers, said from a design standpoint, he is waiting to see which proposal city and county elected officials choose — if any — for the project.
Mayor Jim Thornton said the design decision would be made at future meetings of the City Council and Troup County Board of Commissioners. He added those meetings would provide residents an opportunity to add input and the public would be notified when that meeting is scheduled. He also said the road project isn’t a done deal, and elected officials could still scrap the project altogether.
Tyler H. Jones is a reporter with LaGrange Daily News. He may be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2155.