Lawsuit filed to stop Houston widening
By Christopher Schwarzen
The Macon Telegraph
A lawsuit being prepared by roads opponents claims an environmental study used to approve the Houston Road project failed to consider how widening the road to five lanes would affect air quality and damage the historic character of the area.
CAUTION Macon members filed a notice of litigation against the Macon-Bibb County Road Improvement Program last week, saying the lawsuit would be filed after the project is awarded to a construction firm later this month.
"Five lanes is going to encourage strip development, which is sprawl," said CAUTION Macon member Lee Martin.
The Georgia Department of Transportation, responsible for allocating $5 million in federal funds for the project, says it has already approved an environmental impact study.
DOT District 11 engineer Joe Street said the project could not go to bid unless the study had been approved. Macon is in District 11.
"We have always followed the planning and did approve an (environmental impact study)," he said, adding that the study showed no significant environmental impact on residents living on the road.
Street said he was not aware of any pending lawsuit or possible litigation.
CAUTION Macon has hired Atlanta attorney Richard Hubert to represent it. Hubert is currently involved in a similar suit in Atlanta against MARTA, the authority responsible for the city's mass-transit system. He also was instrumental in the 1980s in changing the Presidential Parkway, originally planned to cut through an historic area near Decatur.
Hubert contends roads program officials only looked at effects on Houston Road, but not at surrounding neighborhoods. He contends not enough consideration was given to historic preservation or a decline in air quality once traffic increases.
"(Compromise) is no longer viable and no one is making progress in that regard," he said. "We are left without any remedy but to seek court action."
CAUTION Macon members have raised funds from across Bibb County, Martin said. He did not say how much has been raised.