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PTC Council and traffic on Hwy. 54W.: Trail of red herrings

Roadblocks erected by Mayor Haddix and Mr. Dienhart in the Peachtree City Council threaten to perpetuate and expand the traffic jam on Ga. Highway 54 West.

The commercial development at Line Creek Drive south of Hwy. 54 continues to languish but remains the focus of political diatribe.

The roadblocks are caused, in my humble opinion, by the mayor’s misunderstandings regarding traffic, traffic control, and traffic studies, and by Mr. Dienhart’s contentions that promises have been made, and are being broken.

There are also, I believe, misunderstandings among the public, including a widespread inability to separate development and traffic. Let’s start with traffic.

According to city staff, traffic volume on Hwy. 54 West has already exceeded 2026 traffic projections. That’s 13 years ahead of schedule.

It’s also a prime indicator that we will reach the 2040 forecast of 50,000 vehicles per day — up from the current 32,000 — a lot sooner than 2040.

This trend, plus projected commercial growth on Line Creek Drive and elsewhere along Hwy. 54 West underscore the urgent need to update our planning documents with new data, now.

Mayor Haddix asserts that we don’t need a new traffic study because the Georgia Department of Transportation plans to start one in four or five years, to be completed in 2020.

The mayor is trolling a red herring, dragging a dead fish across our path to distract us from the real issues.

We can’t wait for a plan that won’t be published until 2020 to identify solutions and get those solutions incorporated into Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) and GDOT plans and — more important — budgets.

The 2020 Plan and existing plans such as Fayette Forward 2010 and the ARC 2040 Regional Plan (which is now being revised) are high-level, conceptual documents. We need engineering studies, not concepts.

If GDOT will conduct and pay for this study, it likely will take a long time. It will take even longer to get recommendations budgeted and implemented. This argues strongly for the city of Peachtree City to pay for a study.

The potential cost of such a study is another red herring, especially compared with the cost of congestion.

The 2010 Fayette Forward transportation study places the annual cost of congestion in Fayette County to be something between $91 million and $145 million by 2030. Much of this is incurred in the Hwy. 54 corridor and its busiest intersection at Ga. Highway 74.

We can expect that a good bit of the cost of congestion could be obliterated by implementing real solutions based on real numbers.

What might we do in the meanwhile?

I have proposed that the city look closely at a real-time adaptive traffic control system for the Hwy. 54 corridor from City Hall to MacDuff Parkway, to include sensors on Hwy. 74. Such systems have been used successfully worldwide for more than 20 years.

The mayor’s argument that Cobb County didn’t find theirs beneficial eight years ago is no longer valid: the technology has improved and Cobb County has expanded their system significantly. There are scores of reports of successful implementations.

The mayor’s assertion that we can’t improve traffic flow on Hwy. 54 because it’s already being monitored by cameras that report back to the GDOT District 3 in Thomaston is not only untrue, but it’s a red herring.

A third red herring is the mayor’s belief that Fischer Road will be extended to I-85 and an intersection created there.

That project exists only as an informal discussion between GDOT and Peachtree City. It’s not documented in any official transportation plan; neither the project nor engineering planning are funded; there has been no timeline established for its implementation; and it could not be approved under Federal Highway Administration intersection spacing requirements, anyway.

The mayor’s assertion that the city stopped the creation of “flyways” and other projects that would have destroyed the shopping centers at the intersection of Hwy. 74 and Hwy. 54 is untrue. It’s another red herring.

What the city stopped was an “intersection study” that might have provided some new, viable alternatives and ideas.

The city’s assumption that GDOT would someday address the problems at that intersection is at best, overly optimistic. GDOT has no plans to begin such a study.

On the development side of the equation, we have Mr. Dienhart’s assertions that members of the City Council promised that there would be no traffic signal at Hwy. 54 and Line Creek Drive, and are now failing to live up to their promise. That is another red herring.

The current council has had only one previous opportunity to vote on the development and by association, the traffic signal. Four members of the current council voted “No.”

Yes, various council members have taken different positions regarding the signal at this intersection. Positions have changed as development proposals have changed; positions have changed as traffic studies indicate different patterns and volumes. And, as I will show, below, it really doesn’t matter, anyway.

Widespread belief that a traffic signal at that intersection would worsen traffic is another red herring. At least two traffic studies have shown that an additional light would improve level of service and reduce wait times at nearby intersections.

As development continues, it will be necessary to re-examine traffic to determine if the intersection warrants a signal and the impact of a signal on nearby intersections.

However, if traffic volume and patterns determine that a signal is warranted, it almost certainly will be installed whether the city wants it or not. Traffic and accident numbers, not politics or polemics, will determine the need for a signal at the intersection. The only question is will the developer pay the estimated $250,000 price, or will the taxpayers of Peachtree City?

The repeated claim that extending an access road to Planterra Ridge will result in the death of children is another red herring. Worse, it’s an extraordinary claim and, as Carl Sagan (and many before him) told us, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

I challenge those making this claim to do three things: to produce evidence to prove their claim, to offer proposals to mitigate any problems that might be identified, and to stop dragging out this particular red herring until they can do both those things.

The assumption that “we must protect neighborhoods, not developers” is a logical fallacy called “Exclusion of the Middle.” It’s not only a red herring, but also a tactic to keep us from looking for other solutions, including solutions that might both protect neighborhoods and stimulate development.

The oft-spoken assumption that we can not trust traffic studies that were paid for by the developer is not only a red herring, it’s an example of Argumentum ad Consequentum: “It can’t be true because I don’t like the answer.” This may also be expressed as “Don’t bother me with facts; I’ve made up my mind.”

Collecting data for a traffic study is a straightforward process. One may disagree with the computer models used; however, one may not legitimately disagree unless one has knowledge and understanding of the models. Don’t just accept assertions by those who would disagree; demand that they explain why they disagree. And ask for their qualifications to judge the models and the data collection methodology.

The Line Creek Development area has been zoned commercial since the 1970s. It will be developed. We can not stop the developer from selling it off piecemeal.

However, we can negotiate with the developer to create a unified development that fits the character of Peachtree City. We can negotiate with the developer to exact payment for the traffic signal that will likely be required and for improvements to the dam in the Line Creek Nature Center (about $200,000), or we, as taxpayers, can bear the burden of those costs while piecemeal growth continues.

Accusations that council members are bypassing the economic development office and negotiating in secret with the developer or potential businesses — whether they be a bowling alley, an all-you-can-eat buffet, a discount grocery, or a family-friendly owl-logoed restaurant — are ad hominem: “If you can’t attack the argument, attack the person; discredit the person in order to discredit his or her ideas.” Ad hominem is “argument from desperation” by someone who really doesn’t have an argument.

Mr. Dienhart’s assertion that a traffic study of Hwy. 54 West is a “delaying tactic” is another red herring. The traffic study must be done. We citizens and the Peachtree City Council must separate the Hwy. 54 traffic study and the Line Creek Development in both our minds and in council resolutions.

The study need not delay decisions on the Line Creek development: the traffic impact of the Line Creek Development is only one of many factors to be folded into a traffic study.

I urge the Peachtree City Council to pass a resolution asking GDOT to conduct a traffic study of the Hwy. 54 corridor through Peachtree City and beyond. I urge the council as it begins working the city’s 2014 budget to be prepared to pay for that study if GDOT will not, or will not do it in a timely manner.

I urge the council to defeat any resolutions to deal piecemeal with traffic by, e.g., rejecting a light at the Hwy. 54/Line Creek intersection or prohibiting a connection between the access road and Planterra Ridge.

I urge the council to direct staff to investigate a real-time adaptive traffic control system for Hwy. 54 from City Hall to MacDuff Parkway.

I urge the council to make their decisions based on facts and analysis, not on anecdotes, not on loud cries of “J’accuse,” and certainly not on red herrings.

Paul Lentz, curmudgeon
Peachtree City, Ga.



Steve Brown's picture

In his last letter, the curmudgeon said the homeowners in Planterra Ridge and Cardiff Park would just have to eat the traffic from road connecting the shopping center and Planterra Way. I am glad to see the change in his position to at least study things before making rash decisions to cram traffic down the neighborhoods' throats.

When you start killing the neighborhoods, you begin the decay of our quality of life.

<cite>When you start killing the neighborhoods, you begin the decay of our quality of life.</cite>

Hmmmm...another red herring!

This sudden onslaught of traffic into Planterra Ridge that is feared by Mssrs. Brown and Dienhart is, quite simply, unrealistic.

If you haven't tried it, I encourage you to take a trip down Planterra Way and Terrane Ridge. Count the speed tables and breaks in the pavement for golf cart crossings. Then imagine using this road as a cut-through for anything. It's ridiculous and, if you go fast enough, damaging to your car!

The frontage road, similar to the one on the other side of 54, to allow traffic to turn in at either MacDuff or Planterra's existing traffic lights and then go to the stores in the area, makes the most sense to me. Where the frontage road turns into Planterra, expand the intersection lanes so there is traffic that can turn left to 54 west, go straight across 54 or turn right onto 54 heading east. You have space back to the tennis center to make those improvements. Yes, I'm sorry the peach trees may have to go, or at least some of them.

Councilman Dienhart's continued assertion that children would die is soley based on illogical fear. Past Cardiff Park south to 54, what child would EVER actually be out in that area? Again, go drive it, from Kelly to Terrane to Planterra, and slow down as you approach the Tennis Center to the left....who's over there playing?

I agree that traffic can be a bit frustrating at times, but I think the most important thing, and the least expensive solution, is PATIENCE. I drive downtown and back every day. There are times where my commute is 45 minutes, and there are times where my commute can end up being 90 minutes. Get over it! If you want faster access to get where you want to go, develop transporter technology already! Common sense beats asphalt every day.

You are definitely asking for the right thing. Some who live in the neighborhood believe that if a study is done it will somehow impact them when it may not. This is not about a traffic light or service road, its about a comprehensive study of a serious and growing problem that will produce solutions for everyone including the neighborhoods.

When problems arise, they need to be professionally analyzed, not managed by political maneuverings. Enough with the "control" stuff, its time for a new mindset in PTC.

Let's do the right thing which is to have a complete and comprehensive study of the 54 corridor done by GDOT or, if they don't have the funding, do what Coweta is doing which is to hire a traffic engineering firm associated with GDOT. The traffic problem will not improve on its own, it will most likely grow worse.

Council needs to do the right thing and shame on those playing games behind the scenes. Maybe the proposed Fayette County Splost should fund this traffic engineering study!

Oh, Paul, run for council. Independent thinkers and doers needed!

Mike King's picture

Mr Dienhart and our 'let's fund a survey' council seems to not understand that the great majority of cars bypassing the signal lights at 54/74 to traverse southward use Huddleston Road to Paschall Way to Dividend Drive. Those few vocal fear mongers have created a political issue when really one does not exist.

Just a real quick clarification. We didn't fund a traffic survey. We are asking GDOT to do a survey. I was against a PTC funded survey. This survey will also be of greater scale than the 40k proposal I was against. It will look at a much larger area. Think of this as completely different than what Councilmember Fleisch proposed. My counterproposal is more comprehensive. Additionally, GDOT has already graded the intersections in question poorly. This is not fear mongering, it is a councilmember recognizing a problem and realizing it will only get worse. As always, thanks for your input.

Mike King's picture

We agree that another PTC funded survey is simply a waste. I have to believe that somewhere in that Marine Corps mind of yours we may find that you realize that the elimination of at least one light during peak periods would go a long way in moving traffic along. Suggest we approach making the light between The Avenue and the Longhorn area a caution during these high traffic times and we might just see an improvement without spending anything.

The latest update to Coweta County's Comprehensive Joint Transportation Plan calls for Bullsboro Drive, also known as Highway 34, to be widened to five lanes in each direction from just north of downtown Newnan all the way to Peachtree City. This two-year project will result in the closure of, first, all eastbound lanes, and in the second phase, all westbound lanes. During the construction, traffic will be reduced to one lane each way and many businesses will be forced to relocate. If you think we have a traffic problem now, just wait until this project is completed.

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