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BOC examines Comprehensive Transportation Plan

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

The Clayton County Board of Commissioners questioned the county's Comprehensive Transportation Plan -- a blueprint for road safety, traffic flow, and mass transit concerns through 2035 -- during a work session on Monday night, and found it wanting.

The county's transportation and development department is awaiting the BOC's final approval of the plan, but commissioners expressed concerns that the plan concentrates more on road improvements, than connectivity through public transit.

Eldrin Bell, BOC chairman, said the majority of the projects in the $1.6 billion venture are geared toward road expansion, rather than on mass transit.

"That concerns me," said Bell. "Some of the chief complaints I have heard are about transit. We can only widen the roads so wide. I would like to be more transit-driven than road-driven," he said. "I would like to see more emphasis put on transit."

Bell said he would like the plan to include a people mover from the airport property, and a commuter rail system which connects vital points of interest, such as the State Farmers Market and the Fort Gillem redevelopment area.

Commissioners Sonna Singleton and Wole Ralph voiced concerns about trail projects and the priority of C-Tran projects.

Between 2009 and 2030, the plan suggests funding 174 long-term projects to impact roads, create additional walking trails, improve the safety of intersections, and improve public transportation through the creation of more C-TRAN bus routes, expanded para-transit services, and the addition of commuter rail.

Jeff Metarko, interim director of the Clayton County Transportation and Development Department, said time is of the essence, if the county wants to receive state funding for the projects.

"The [Atlanta Regional Commission] is anxious for the board to adopt our plan, so they can move forward on their regional transit plans," said Metarko. "This is a vital component for us to receive some of that scarce funding that is out there right now."

In other action, the BOC conducted a public hearing on the proposed relocation of the old Union Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church cemetery. A majority of the cemetery lies on the land of Stephens MDS, LP landfill company on West Lees Mill Road.

While the company says it will safely relocate the 311-grave cemetery to a new location on Upper Riverdale Road, some residents spoke against the move. The residents claimed that Brockington and Associates, the archeological firm responsible for the transfer, failed to safely relocate the once-nearby, 34-person gravesite Flowers Family Cemetery to the Red Oak United Methodist Church Cemetery on Walt Stephens Road in Stockbridge.

"If they moved them, and they claimed that they were going to mark them, where are they?" asked Tonya Lee Willis, a College Park resident. "We were there today. If we can't do it carefully the first time, then what assurance will the board give that it will be done correctly this time."

Alita Knox, a Riverdale resident, said the graves "represented the slaves" and should be left alone, out of respect.

Bell said he would take all things into consideration and include the community if a decision to relocate the cemetery is made. The BOC will meet again next Tuesday to decide on the matter.