Georgia I-16/I-75 Improvement Project
 
 
Meeting Questions and Comments

Pleasant Hill Neighborhood Meeting

Date / Time November 21, 2005       5:30 p.m.
Location

Booker T. Washington Community Center

391 Monroe Street

Macon, GA

Project Team Attendees 6 participants
Mr. Ben Buchan - GDOT
Mr. Glenn Bowman - GDOT
Mr. Brad Hale - MAAI
Mr. Patrick Smeeton - MAAI
Ms. Liz Stepp - Sycamore Consulting
Ms. Leah Vaughan - Sycamore Consulting

MEETING OVERVIEW

The meeting was attended by approximately 70- 75 residents, business owners or concerned citizens. 

The meeting was called order by Ms. Liz Stepp of Sycamore Consulting.  Ms. Stepp welcomed everyone, reviewed the agenda and ground rules, and introduced Mr. Ben Buchan, Georgia DOTís State Urban Design Engineer.

Mr. Buchan briefly reviewed the projectís purpose and need, its history and provided a recap of issues raised at earlier meetings with Pleasant Hill.

Mr. Buchan called on Mr. Brad Hale of Moreland-Altobelli to detail the proposed project improvements.  Mr. Hale presented improvements along the entire project and in Pleasant Hill.  Mr. Hale asked for questions.

Q:  In lay terms can you explain what areas you are coming in to? Where is the cemetery impacted? And what homes are impacted?

A.     Most work is contained within the existing right of way on the west side of the interstate.  There are no property impacts to Linwood Cemetery.  There is one proposed residential displacement on the west side of I-75; itís the last house on 4th Avenue.  On the east side of I-75 there are a number of potential displacements, ranging from 14 to 20.  The purpose of tonightís meeting is to explain the potential impacts to this community based on Alternative #9 and to listen to the concerns

 Q.  Will there be a road coming from Middle Street all the way through?

A.   The project team has investigated options for a new roadway overpass at either First Avenue, Second Avenue, or Fourth Avenue.  Due to the existing topography, adding a new overpass at any of these locations would have undesirable impacts to adjacent property.  (A graphic depiction of each option was provided in the presentation). 

 Q.  How much time do Pleasant Hill residents have to formulate an opinion?

            A.  The next major step in the project is to draft the environmental document.    In order to meet our current schedule, it would be desirable to receive all input from the community within the next 4 to 6 months.

 Q.  How long has this been on the drawing board?  We donít feel we have been allowed to participate until now.

A.  The project has been around since the 1980ís.  This alternative was  selected as the new preferred concept alternative (by GDOT and FHWA) in the summer of 2005.  You are actually the first community that we have held a discussion with concerning Alternative #9.

 C.  It seems that Pleasant Hill is always the last to know anything.  What about aesthetics, displacements, relocations?  Where are these people going to be displaced to?   How are residents going to get around?  80% of people in Pleasant Hill are elderly.

 Q.  When you say ďpre-finalĒ on this plan, what do you mean?

A.  We are in the preliminary design process.  FHWA and GDOT have both agreed to move forward with this alternative.  We are inviting public participation and comment on refinement and mitigation issues.

C.  Environmental Assessment protections are miniscule compared to an EIS.  This project demands and EIS.

A. There are several degrees of environmental assessment.  FHWA determines the level of assessment required.  At this point an Environmental Assessment appears to be the level required at this time.  It is also important to note that after an EA is prepared the level of assessment could be increased depending on the impacts.

 C.  There are several issues that Pleasant Hill residents are concerned about:  Impacts to Rodney M. Davis grave site and Little Richardís Home site on Middle Street.

 Q.  Why is there no court reporter?  No comment form?

A.  This was intended to be an informal meeting to gather input from the Pleasant Hill Residents.  A formal Public Information Open House (PIOH) meeting will be held with court reporters and comment forms.

 Q.  How are you quantifying what is said here tonight?

A.  We have several people taking notes.  We will prepare a meeting summary that will be included in the project documentation.

 Q.  What are the other alternatives?  Why was Alternative 9 chosen over the others?

A.  The other alternatives included a wide range of options.  We worked with a Citizens Advisory Committee to help us understand the overall concerns.  We can provide you with more detailed information after the meeting and it is also on our web site, but we wanted this time to primarily hear your concerns.

 Q.  Who represents Pleasant Hill on the Citizens Advisory Committee?

A.  Richard Enesley

 Q.  What would prevent you from conducting an EIS voluntarily?

A.  The major difference between an EA and an EIS is documentation of the Alternatives Analysis.  Under this project we have analyzed a number of different alternatives.  At the end of the EA, FHWA will decide if an EIS is warranted or if there is a finding of no significant impact.

 C.  Construction could have some economic impact on Pleasant Hill.  How can we benefit from the construction and the impacts?

 Presentation continued with a discussion of various options in Pleasant HillÖ..

 Q.  What amount of money has been set aside for improvements like this?  Is it part of the original contract?

A.  There is no money ďset asideĒ for anything at this time.  We want to identify the impacts and mitigate those as much as possible and simply include those as a part of the overall project.  In some cases, such as noise walls however, money is generally allocated at a rate of $50,000 for each impacted resident in order to determine its feasibility. 

 Q.  Given the grade difference between the east and west side of the Interstate, would it be possible to tunnel under rather than bridge across?

A.  No, itís really not feasible.  There is still the problem with bringing the road back up to grade on either side of the freeway.

 Q.  You talked about an Advisory Committee.  Can I be a part of these meetings?

A.  We set up chairs for public attendance, but those meetings were structured for participation of the CAC members.

 C.  We need a Pleasant Hill Advisory Committee.  We want to leave our heritage in our neighborhood.  We need to come together as a neighborhood.  We want an economic empowerment zone.

 C.  The CAC asked Mr. Buchan to look at other alternatives, to scale down the design and now itís bigger than it was.  You need sound barriers, but GDOT puts up those ugly steel walls.  If they fix the sound, they create visual impacts.

 Q.  Does the northbound entrance ramp from Hardeman provide access only to I-75?

A.  At this point, yes.  We could look into a separate lane to provide access to I-16.

 C.  Winship Hills would like to work with Pleasant Hill.

 Q.  Will Walnut Street be closed during construction?

A.  Yes.  It is possible that it will be closed for 18 -24 months.

 Q.  There is no court reporter.  How do you document this meeting?

A.  We have several people taking notes.  We will prepare a meeting summary that will be included in the project documentation

 C.  Donít feel like what is being suggested is not being heard.  We will work with GDOT to get the parameters of what is up for discussion, work as a neighborhood, and then get back together with GDOT.

 C.  North Highland would like to work together with Pleasant Hill.  We need to think of this more as whole rather than individual neighborhoods.

 C.  I would hope that Dr. Williams would meet with the Pleasant Hill residents to find out what we want.

 C.  We need to stand tall and work to save Pleasant Hill.  This project offers a focused attention that some other issues donít.

 C.  Booker T. Washington Community Center has internet access available.  Please come use our office if you want to get on line to see the project web site or make a comment.

 C.  GDOT asked to confirm the best way to work with the community from this point forward.  It was stated that Dr. Williams would lead a sub-committee to study the options and communicate back and forth with GDOT and work through the homeowner association.