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  full story
2014 road kill scenario



charles richardsonCharles Richardson

T he year, 2014. The place, the just-completed Macon/Bibb County Courthouse Complex in Marshall Square. You might remember it as the old Shriners building. It was renovated in 2005 to hold courtrooms and the combined police, fire and sheriff's offices formed by the Consolidation Act of 2004.

The judge, Kelley Faulkner, happens to be a second-generation Municipal Court Judge. She followed in her father Robert's footsteps. He went on to be named by President Gore to a federal judgeship.

The case: simple speeding. The accused: former mayor Jim Marshall. Scene of the crime: Ingleside Avenue.

"Your honor," Mr. Marshall said. "I will prove today that I couldn't help going 65 miles per hour in a 45-mile-per-hour speed zone."

Judge Faulkner looked puzzled. She knew Marshall when she was growing up, but he was talking kind of crazy now.

"Your honor," Marshall went on, raising his voice, "I also will prove that there is another entity responsible for my speeding." The packed audience sat in hushed silence as Marshall turned to face them.

He slowly raised his hand and pointed to no one in particular and said, "It's them your honor, the Georgia Department of Transportation."

Puzzled looks were everywhere; giggles and laughter followed. Judge Faulkner banged her gavel and shouted, "Order in the court. Mr. Marshall, you had better explain yourself and do so quickly."

Marshall slowly shuffled toward the bench, not moving too well for a man who used to take on the Police Department in a fitness test and win. Too much running on too much concrete.

"Let me focus the court's attention to the Bibb County Road Improvement Project that ended when I was mayor," Marshall said. The courtroom got edgy; Marshall had a tendency to reminisce about the past.

"You see, when the Road Improvement Project, aided by funds from the DOT, put six lanes down Ingleside to move traffic faster, I just couldn't control myself.

"It's just like an interstate. The old trees and classic neighborhood that used to make you feel like meandering instead of speeding are gone. The whole city has gone to road and rot," Marshall exclaimed, again raising his voice, this time more for effect than anything else.

People hadn't seen Marshall this animated since he lost the 2007 election to Buck Melton, who was 82 at the time and starting his third go-round in the mayor's seat.

Marshall then paused and spoke softly. "Can you see what we have wrought? We have made speedways out of Ingleside, Forest Hill and Houston Avenue. A person my age can't distinguish one interstate from another. Heck, I-75 is only three lanes wide in some places, and the speed limit out there is 65 miles per hour."

Marshall then looked down and almost started to sob. "I just couldn't help myself, your honor. The roads were built for speed ... and I sped."

Then he made a confession that made the onlookers gasp. "I'm glad the police caught me!" Marshall shouted. "I was out of control. There I was on Georgia Avenue turning right on College where they took down that big old magnolia tree so buses could turn easier. I came around that corner so fast I was on two wheels."

Marshall started to get "Amens" from the crowd, many of whom used to live in the Historic District. They all moved to the new city of North Macon to avoid buses and traffic. The traffic came, but the buses didn't. The quaint neighborhood had been a tourist attraction, but quaint fell victim to road kill.

"Mr. Marshall," Judge Faulkner said, handing him a kerchief, "get a-hold of yourself." She banged her gavel and said, "Case dismissed."

A crowd gathered to congratulate the former mayor, and he was asked what was his biggest regret about the roads program. He paused and said in a way only Marshall could, "We spent $500 million on our roads, and you still can't go down the street without getting stopped by every dad-blamed red light in town. Now if I had designed the program. ..."

Charles E. Richardson is the assistant to the editor for The Macon Telegraph. Call him at 744-4342 or e-mail to crichardson@macontel.com. His column appears every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday.



*Program's exec committee has contentious meeting (10/9/98)

*Macon company wins contract to build controversial road (10/7/98)

*Interview with Frank Pinkston: DOT official discusses Bibb projects (9/23/98)




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