How they went wrong on bypass

Tue, 05/26/2009 - 3:46pm
By: Letters to the ...

I represent the West Fayetteville Bypass Coalition (WFBC). We are a group of Fayette residents opposed to the West Fayetteville Bypass (WFB). The WFB is an old project. At previous commissioners’ meetings, the general public expressed its displeasure. Every person making opinions known was opposed to the project.

The SPLOST ballot under which the tax to support the bypass was approved listed road, street and bridge purposes as the voting issues on the SPLOST ballot, but did not list the bypass. Few knew of the actual project’s approval until after its initial proposed route was published.

Phase I of the project (a connector near Ga. Highway 54, less than a mile long), was begun as a bypass first in order to justify Phases II and III, which are each several miles long, much more expensive, and cross our wetlands.

Persons owning land in the Phase I area were not notified of the bypass prior to seeing project surveyors on their property.

Phase II landowners formally found out about the project when they received county drawings showing the proposed route going around and through their property.

When we requested specific documents under the Georgia Open Records Act, Fayette County produced no detailed traffic studies indicating public need for the project. It also conducted no environmental impact assessment on the wetland areas that would be disturbed by the project.

It was not until two WFBC members confronted the county with these observations that it conducted additional surveys to meet the federally mandated “less damaging alternative routes” requirement for crossing wetlands.

The final recommended route crosses eight wetland areas and still, no formal traffic or environmental impact studies or evaluations have been conducted.

County officials ignore or refuse to address the environmental impacts this road will have on the area. They had assured members of the WFBC the county would not proceed with trying to obtain right of way from property owners until they were sure they would be able to obtain the 404 Wetland Permit (no application made yet). However, three homeowners say they’ve been told that they will lose their homes.

At its May 5 open house meeting disclosing the final recommended bypass route, the Fayette Road Department announced that the project has now become a parkway. While the bypass idea is more than 20 years old, evidently, the county now feels that it can’t justify the name bypass due to lack of traffic, and might be more successful with another name.

Point #16 of the county’s booklet announced that the parkway was not for development purposes. However, the WFBC showed the commissioners on an enlarged map of the county’s proposed final route that it passes through the very heart of more than 1,400 acres owned by major developers.

In an attempt to prove that the public does not support the project, opponents of the project were asked to stand by a WFBC speaker at a commissioners’ meeting, but were denied the right to do so by the commission chairman.

The commissioners were given detailed reasons by our environmental expert why the project would not be approved for construction by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, because it does not meet federal requirements for the 404 Permits, yet they chose to ignore us.

Fayette County citizens will pay for the project in SPLOST taxes, yet only major developers will receive the benefits. These same citizens must also pay approximately $800,000 in wetland mitigation credits if the project goes through.

Fayette County did not consider the impact of the bypass on wildlife, fragmenting neighborhoods, or how runoff water from the project could pollute the public water supply.

The commissioners also failed to consider the danger to schoolbus children by having only stop signs at the Lee’s Mill Road and Eastin Road intersections with the bypass. The Lee’s Mill intersection is only one-third mile from the Ga. Highway 92 and Lee’s Mill intersection, which has a traffic light for the safety of our children. More than 1,000 school bus children pass these two intersections daily.

A recent article in The Fayette News is the only one we’ve seen in favor of the bypass. It was a curious comparison of the bypass with the origins of Ga. highways 85, 92, and 314. Evidently, the writer is convinced that the commissioners know what’s best for the county, as he steered clear of discussing any current need for the bypass.

The WFBC is not renouncing existing highways and widening projects, only a project that is entirely for the benefit of a few. Instead of getting people to I-85 or Hwy. 85, where the real traffic is going, this road is intentionally designed to end at Westbridge Road, which is nowhere.

That’s a suspicious destination, isn’t it, all things considered? Will we ever see Hwy. 314 getting four-laned through Clayton County, or an I-85 access road to Fayette County built through Fulton County?

If you agree that the county has gone about this project in the wrong way, please send a letter to the agencies whose addresses appear below. These agencies must approve the project and grant wetland permits before construction can take place.

Each letter should stress, especially to the Environmental Protection Agency, the need we all have for a comprehensive document that spells out what the purpose and need for the road are and especially what impact this project has on social, economic and environmental resources of our county.

With enough public support, we believe that the regional administrator for EPA will require an environmental impact statement from the county, and the 404 Permit will subsequently be denied.

Your letters to the following can make a difference:

Russell L. Kaiser

US EPA, Region 4

Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Center

61 Forsyth Street, SW

Atlanta, GA 30303-8960


Regional Administrator Chief

Regulatory & Permits Division

Regulatory Functions Division

U. S. Army Corps of Engineers

590 Adamson Parkway

Morrow, GA 30260

Steve Smithfield

Fayette County, Ga.

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