To the Editor:
Last Wednesday, January 20th, Tyler Jones wrote what I thought was a very good article (“Officials Respond to Road Concerns”) regarding the proposed connector road through the Callaway Land Trust property connecting Vernon road to Cameron Mill Road. He polled some of our elected officials and for the first time since August we got some insight into where they stand. All seemed to want more public input which is remarkable, since there have already been five public meetings addressing this issue (three City Councils and two County Commissioners) with 30 to 50 citizens in attendance at each meeting.
There are three important concerns with this road project. The responses in Tyler Jones’ article focused on one. It’s true that the residents of the neighborhoods along Country Club Drive are worried about this new road being continued through their neighborhood. Our officials say that this could never happen but twice within recent memory developers in conjunction with the City have attempted to do just that. People living in these neighborhoods see this road as a very real threat.
The second concern is about the process by which this road project came about. Our SPLOST funds for transportation are not designated for specific projects. There is a pool of money controlled mainly by the City and County Managers to spend based on their priorities with little or no oversight by elected officials. This project came about only in response to a request by an influential developer who contributed land for a right of way and $2 million in exchange for the remaining cost, estimated to be at least $2.5 million, to be paid out of SPLOST funds. There has been no public demand for this road. It has never been part of the City or the County long-range plan. There have been no traffic studies, environmental impact studies, or any other research that one would expect for a road funded by the public. Yet, our City Council passed a resolution endorsing this roadway with no evidence of whether we need it or not and the County appears ready to fund it. This process should be a concern for every taxpayer in Troup County.
The third concern is about traffic. Since no traffic studies have been done, no one can say for sure what the impact on Cameron Mill Road will be. If the proposed road does, indeed, divert a significant volume of traffic from Vernon onto the two-lane Cameron Mill Road, the likely effect will be to further congest the already problematic area at Hollis Hand School. The busy intersection where Country Club Road meets Broad Street would see more traffic. Piney Woods Drive and Cherokee Road would be significantly busier with more traffic cutting through to the Wal-Mart and Mooty Bridge side of town to avoid Vernon Road and the downtown stoplights.
On the other hand, let’s suppose that the Callaway Road only diverts minimal traffic from Vernon. Then why build the Road? Some say that it would provide easier access to the hospital. From Country Club Drive to the hospital, even during Hollis Hand pick-up time, takes five minutes. How much time can a two mile long cut-thru road save? A minute? Ninety seconds? The issue of added traffic on Cameron Mill Road should concern anyone who drives Cameron Mill Road, anyone who lives on Piney Woods Drive or Cherokee Road, and anyone whose child attends Hollis Hand School.
A concerned group of citizens has asked the City and County to put the brakes on this project, to conduct a thorough and objective traffic study to understand it’s impact, and, if the road survives, to seriously consider alternate and less threatening road alignments. The City is currently studying alternate routes but is still not conducting any traffic studies or providing any evidence that we need the road in the first place.
Country Club Drive