$763 million in transportation projects invites public scrutiny

Macon Area Transportation Study staff are holding public meetings seeking input on GDOT projects in the 2050 plan


Liz Fabian

Macon-Bibb Planning & Zoning Commission senior planner Gregory Brown points out pending road projects Monday night at Rosa Jackson Community Center during the first of nine public meetings on local transportation projects.

If you spend a lot of time in traffic, hold highway frustrations or want a better way to get around, a unique opportunity awaits.

The Macon Area Transportation Study is formulating the Connect 2050 plan to guide future infrastructure updates, transportation access and improvements of roads and bridges in Macon-Bibb County, southwestern Jones County and south Monroe County.

The study encompasses transit routes and opportunities, pedestrian and bike enhancements and safety improvements.

MATS scheduled nine public meetings through mid-December to inform the public about the nearly 50 projects listed and collect thoughts through an online survey.

Information gathered at the meetings and through the survey will be used to determine local priorities for Georgia Department of Transportation projects.

The survey is designed to take about 10 minutes, but there is additional information available for those who seek greater knowledge about the projects that could extend the survey time.

The projects list is broken down in three categories: projects that will be completed in 10 years, short-range projects and long-range work.

The first meeting Monday night at Rosa Jackson Community Center only drew a couple of curious onlookers who appeared to be already at the center.

“These are always a struggle to get the public out,” Macon-Bibb Planning and Zoning senior planner Gregory Brown said.

He remembered a different scenario when he started working in Macon a couple of decades ago. Many people showed up with concerns over the pending interstate interchange construction that is now underway.

“Nothing too hot on the press (this time),” Brown said.

The nearly $150 million bridge reconstruction project from Interstate 16 East to Walnut Creek tops the project list on the survey, but is about $5 million away from completion.

Nearly $36 million in improvements to Bass Road from Providence Boulevard to New Forsyth Road comes in at No. 5 on the list.

The first dozen projects are underway and have been partially funded, but the remaining items could be accelerated and funded based on public input.

“It’s always easier to amend the budget of an existing project than to add a brand-new project,” said Mike Greenwald, the Metropolitan Planning Organization’s technical coordinator.

If there is enough public support for a new project, it could be added to the evolving list.

This map highlights projects listed in the Macon Area Transportation Study survey. (Liz Fabian)

Greenwald has outlined the current projects on a sprawling spreadsheet he props on an easel beside a map during the meetings.

The spreadsheet tracks whether a project meets planning goals, notes the cost estimate, shows money committed to date and remaining balance.

“Believe me, when you work with public money you… better be able to track it,” Greenwald said.

Every five years, staff goes through the list and makes changes to the plan.

The lower a project is on the list does not necessarily mean it’s a lower priority, but it is not as far along in the planning and funding process, Greenwald said.

No. 49 – the Central Georgia Rail Trail from Macon to Milledgeville – has an estimated cost of $7 million, but No. 48 – pedestrian improvements to Log Cabin Drive – doesn’t even have a cost estimate yet.

Once feedback is gathered, the resulting update will provide a “prioritized, cost-constrained list of projects that will be implemented over the next 25 to 30 years,” according to a news release about the meetings.

The survey can be taken online anywhere, but those attending the meetings can question staff about the process and use a QR code to access the survey while in attendance.

MATS public meetings:

  • Tues., Nov. 30, 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm: South Bibb Recreation Center, 7035 Houston Road, Macon, 31216
  • Wed., Dec. 1, 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm: Frank Johnson Community Center, 2227 Mercer University Drive, Macon, 31201
  • Thurs, Dec. 2, 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm:  Jones County Government Center – Charlotte C. Wilson Conference Room, 166 Industrial Boulevard, Gray, 31032
  • Mon., Dec. 6, 5:30pm – 7:30pm: Online meeting accessed through www.mbpz.org/streaming. Organizers will need the name and email addresses of participants wishing to speak.
  • Tues., Dec. 7, 2 pm – 4 pm: Elaine H. Lucas Senior Center, 132 Willie Smokie Glover Drive, Macon, 31201
  • Wed., Dec. 8, 2 pm – 4 pm: Bloomfield – Gilead Community Center, 1931 Rocky Creek Road, Macon, 31206
  • Thurs. Dec. 9, 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm:  Lake Tobesofkee (Sandy Beach Pavilion), 6680 Moseley Dixon Road, Macon,  31220
  • Mon., Dec. 13, 2 pm – 4 pm:  Macon Area GDOT Office (Auditorium), 4499 Riverside Drive, Macon, 31210

    – Civic Journalism Senior Fellow Liz Fabian covers Macon-Bibb County government entities and can be reached at [email protected] or 478-301-2976.