MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) - Wednesday marked a small victory for the Forest Hill community. A group of regional leaders voted to temporarily delay the road expansion project which has been in the works for 20 years.
It's six-tenths of a mile between Vineville Avenue and Wimbish Road. Tha'ts just a small stretch of Forest Hill Road, but it was a big topic of discussion during the Macon Area Transportation Study Policy Committee meeting.
"I think we have to start listening to people who live in those neighborhoods more than we ever have before," Bibb County Commissioner and Policy Committee member Lonzy Edwards said.
One of the agenda items was to create a final draft of the Transportation Improvement Program, or TIP. That is a list of the state's short-term projects, like widening Forest Hill Road. But during the meeting, the committee voted 8-7 to delay spending $8 million federal dollars to buy rights of way for the project. Macon-Bibb Mayoral candidates Robert Reichert and Joe Allen voted against the motion to defer the project, while Sam Hart voted in favor of it.
"I think this is about using the funds that we have and our visions that we have to improve the neighborhood, not eviscerate down the middle," Ben Wells, the Rector for the St. Francis Episcopal Church located off Forest Hill Road, said.
The community says something needs to be done to fix the road, but turning it from a two lane to a four lane highway—even bigger in some places—isn't a solution.
"We're hoping that with this vote they'll go back to the drawing board and give us something that is human sized and more useful to the citizens," Forest Hill advocate Lindsay "Doc" Holliday said.
It is off the table for now, but Holliday says the fight isn't over.
"It's not a win forever, this is a long term project to get what the citizens want instead of the road contractors," Holliday said.
To be clear, the Forest Hill project is temporarily delayed but it is still part of the state's long range projects. The TIP final draft will be posted on Macon Bibb County's Planning and Zoning website. The community will have 30 days to call, email, or send in any comments or concerns before a final version is approved.
During that same meeting, the committee amended the TIP to include spending $11.5 million federal dollars for fixing up homes in the Pleasant Hill neighborhood that were affected after I-75 came through the area and homes that could be impacted by the current plans to expand the interstate again.