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Lovejoy residents ‘fighting mad’ over road widening

Nearly two dozen homes may be demolished

Lovejoy resident Vicki Baggett (c) talks to Georgia Department of Transportation project manager Jeremy Busby Thursday about the state's plans to widen McDonough Road. Baggett's home is one of about 22 homes and businesses that may be demolished to make way for the project.

Lovejoy resident Vicki Baggett (c) talks to Georgia Department of Transportation project manager Jeremy Busby Thursday about the state's plans to widen McDonough Road. Baggett's home is one of about 22 homes and businesses that may be demolished to make way for the project.

— Vicki Baggett knew this day would come eventually, but the little red dot on her property still left her in shock.

Baggett, 58, has lived in her home near Hurricane Creek on McDonough Road since 1997. She worked for Fayette County for years, so she knew officials wanted to widen the road some day. However, the news that her home would have to go in the process left her looking stunned at a Georgia Department of Transportation public input meeting at Lovejoy High School Thursday.

During the meeting, a map of the preliminary schematics showed what the widened road would look like and what properties would be most impacted. Houses that are expected to be demolished were marked with red dots.

“I’m 58 years old and at that age, you’re supposed to be thinking about retirement,” said Baggett. “Instead, I going have to think about relocating because my house is going to be torn down.”

Baggett was one of several Lovejoy-area residents who attended DOT meeting only to learn their homes may be bought by the state and demolished. At least 22 homes and businesses were marked with red dots on the long, panoramic project map.

photo

Curt Yeomans

Lovejoy residents check out a map of the Georgia Department of Transportation's planned McDonough Road widening project Thursday to see if their homes will be demolished. Nearly two dozen homes and businesses were marked on the map for removal.

Four years from now, the state plans to begin widening the road from two to four lanes, and putting in a 20-feet wide median, bike paths and sidewalks. The $59.6 million project is expected to take more than two years to complete, and it include more than five miles of roadway between Tara Boulevard and Ga. 54 in Fayetteville.

Georgia DOT spokesman Mark McKinnon said the state is looking long-term at the traffic demands that will be placed on McDonough Road. The area is growing, he said, and if the widening project is done, the road will have a capacity of 27,700 cars in 2022. If the road is not widened by then, it won’t be able to handle more than 21,300 cars.

The number of cars that routinely use the road now was not available at the meeting.

“The grand plan here is to relieve congestion,” said McKinnon. “It’s a very heavily-traveled roadway. The traffic numbers are up and are growing. We recognize that in the next several years, it is going to become a real problem to navigate this roadway with the growth that’s being experienced in this area.”

There was no shortage of anger and bewilderment among residents who may have to sacrifice their homes in the name of urban sprawl.

Michael and Vanessa Martin, and their neighbor, Becky Bates, found out their homes are among about five in the Hastings Farm neighborhood targeted for demolition.

Are they planning to fight the plans?

“Hell, yeah, do you want them to take your house?,” said Bates. “They said it won’t happen for another four, five, six or seven years, but the way time flies, that’s like tomorrow. This is always going to be in the back of our minds. In the meantime, we can’t make any improvements to our homes because you’re not going to get the money out of it.”

She later added, “The one, two, three, four, five houses that face McDonough Road in Hastings Farm subdivision — those people are fighting mad.”

Michael Martin added, “It’s going to affect us tremendously.”

And those residents who will lose their homes were not the only people who were upset about the proposed plans. Jerri Dean said the median would restrict her access to Tara Boulevard, which she travels to get to work.

“I’m only going to be able to turn right out of my neighborhood,” said Dean. “That means I’m going to have to go down the street and make a U-turn so I can get to Tara Boulevard.”

But nothing is set in stone. McKinnon said the maps shown at the meeting are preliminary plans that can be changed based on public input.

“These are not final plans,” said McKinnon. “We will listen to and read every comment and take into consideration every comment that’s given and see if we need to adjust the plans as a result. We typically do that ahead of time because the plans take quite a while to develop, so we want to get the comments early so we can go ahead and put them into the plans.

“If we wait until too late into the process, then it’s hard to change those plans once you’ve got them in place,” he continued.

The project plans will be on display for 10 days at the DOT District 7 offices at 4125 Roosevelt Highway, in College Park, and at 1001 U.S. 19 South, in Griffin.

Handouts are expected to be posted on www.dot.ga.gov under “Information Center” section. Residents and business owners who cannot attend the meeting can mail their comments to State Environmental Administrator Glenn Bowman at Georgia DOT, 600 West Peachtree St. NW, 16th Floor, Atlanta, Ga. 30308.

DOT officials must receive comments by July 25.