Taxpayers: County is wasting $22m on 'needless' road wideni - CBS46 News

Taxpayers: County is wasting $22m on 'needless' road widening

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The debate over the widening of a two-lane road in Forsyth County continues as a CBS46 investigation found there isn't enough traffic on the road to justify the $22 million project.

"I'm mad at the fact they're wasting money," said Scott Eckley, of Forsyth County. 

Concerned taxpayers tell CBS46 News investigative reporter Jeff Chirico that they believe government leaders are wasting SPLOST money that could be used to help relieve more serious traffic problems on other county roads.

"We don't need it. There's just not enough traffic [on Castleberry Road]," said Tony DeMaria who lives on a section of Castleberry Road that isn't planned to be widened. The plan includes widening a three-mile stretch of Castleberry Road from Bethelview to Hutchinson Roads to four lanes.

According to a 2004 traffic study commissioned by the county, an average of 6270 vehicles traveled Castleberry Road each day.  The study, prepared by Gresham Smith and Partners of Alpharetta, estimated the average daily traffic would increase to 15,245 vehicles by 2014. If the prediction held true, that would have been the first year the daily vehicle traffic would surpass the county-set threshold of 14,900 vehicles needed to justify a four-lane road.   

However, according to an internal county e-mail obtained by CBS46, the traffic count in March 2013 barely surpassed 7,000 vehicles a day.

"It turns out the 2004 traffic study was 106% overstating the traffic," said DeMaria.

Despite the minimal growth, the project is moving forward.

Forsyth County spent $10 million buying property along the road in 2009 and intends to spend another $12 million in construction costs.

Pete Amos, chair of the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners, denied that the road widening is a waste of taxpayer money. He pointed out that project is largely funded by SPLOST dollars and was approved by voters.  DeMaria and Eckley said the SPLOST plan called for "road improvements" but didn't specify road widening when it was voted on in 2003.

"We look 20 years in the future and our projections are in 7 to 10 years this will be a heavily traveled road and meet our expectations of 14,000 cars," said Amos.

But when pressed, Amos admitted it wasn't the 2004 study or citizens who called for the widening of Castleberry Road 15 years ago.

"I think the [Cumming] Mayor [H. Ford Gravitt] and commissioner came together and said we need a four-lane Castleberry Road," said Amos.

A separate study paid for by opposition of the widening criticized the older study as being "based on a prior county objective" rather than true data.

Gravitt told Chirico the road has serious traffic problems and said "there's a big, big need for a four-lane Castleberry."   Gravitt could not explain why the traffic count doesn't reflect that.

Amos said the county will begin accepting bids for the construction work this year.

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