By Tracy Rogers
While it appears the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) remains hell-bent on ramming Route D-VE through Dobbins Mountain and surrounding areas, the coalition would like to detail the benefits of an alternate or modified route for the connector. And let’s keep in mind, the feds have stated the road would not lose its remaining $20 million earmark and that GDOT would only have to study the portion of the road that it alters. This means the project would not lose federal funding and would not have to start over, as some elected leaders contend.
First, modifying or selecting an alternate route would save taxpayers a significant amount of money. Media reports indicate that Route D-VE could cost taxpayers approximately $214 million – at least $100 million more than GDOT’s originally preferred route, Route G. Even if GDOT modified the existing route around the Dobbins Mountain area and neighborhoods, that alone could save taxpayers millions of dollars.
Secondly, an alternate or modified route would potentially avoid what may be years of unnecessary and costly litigation. The legal wrangling could delay the project further and possibly send GDOT back to the drawing board if the court stops the route. The worst scenario is; GDOT loses in court and the project is terminated.
This would not be the first time that GDOT’s proposed route for the 411 Connector project has lost in court. In 1993, a federal judge ruled that GDOT failed to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and applicable regulations. The route GDOT tried to build in the 1990’s is very similar to the current proposed route.
Thirdly, if the route was altered it could potentially free-up millions of dollars for other badly needed transportation projects. As most know, the road system throughout the region could use the extra funding to spur economic growth and ease traffic congestion. An alternate, more affordable route could also potentially require less T-SPLOST dollars, if the ballot initiative passes in 2012. If the ballot measure does pass, the state is planning to utilize $42.8 million of T-SPLOST funds for the 411 Connector. Now if the route was adjusted to reduce cost, GDOT could use fewer T-SPLOST dollars on the road and could spread those funds to other transportation projects in the region.
Further, a modified route around Dobbins Mountain eliminates a looming legal battle to determine if the 107-acre conservation easement qualifies for Section 4(f) designation. It also eliminates any concerns regarding destruction of historic Dobbins Mine and potential acidic drainage and the harm it would pose to aquatic life from the excavation at Dobbins Mountain, if the rock uncovered proves to be acid-producing. An altered route would also preserve vital wildlife habitat for many species including the threatened Cherokee darter.
In closing, the coalition contends if GDOT would spend six to 12 months to study and select a modified or alternate route, it would save taxpayers over $100 million, avoid years of litigation and delays and preserve the local environment.
Coalition for the Right Road (CORR) is an organization of Georgia citizens committed to making sure the U.S. 411 Connector is built with minimal environmental impact and at the lowest cost to taxpayers. CORR is opposed to the Georgia Department of Transportation’s current plans for the 411 Connector – Route D-VE – because of its high cost, inefficient interchange and environmental destruction. The coalition is committed to raising awareness of shorter, cheaper and less destructive routes, and is open to anyone who shares these concerns. For more information, visit www.coalitionfortherightroad.org, find us on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube, or sign our petition against Route D-VE - http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/411corr.