What to do about Forest Hill (with pictures!!!)

ImageEverybody always asks what I think needs to be done with Forest Hill Road. In the past, stuck behind school buses, blue haired old ladies in their Lincoln Town Cars, and other assorted traffic slowpokes, I’ve been in favor of bulldozing the whole thing.

Of course, now that I’m about to be a City Councilman, I suppose I have to not be so impertinent. And actually, having reviewed the DOT’s plan, it scares the mess out of me that they want to turn a peaceful neighborhood into a major traffic corridor — something it had the potential to become, but no longer will become because all the growth is now further north.

To be sure, some people who live on Forest Hill deny the reality that it has become a major traffic artery. At the same time, however, the DOT and “urban planners” are yet again denying reality — the reality the rest of clearly see that says they better get on up to Bass Road and expand it quickly. Forest Hill Road’s days are over. It’ll see increased traffic, but honestly, having driven the road daily for years now, it seems to me there are only 4 areas that really need major fixing. The goal now should be traffic efficiency, not traffic increase.

The road, in general could use a bit of widening. It could also use some smoothing out. There are some very sharp curves on steep grades. But only in certain parts does it need anything more than two lanes. A sidewalk would be nice, but let’s be honest — that neighborhood has been there for decades with no sidewalk. Do they really need one after forty years of not having one? I don’t think so.

So, were I king for a day, here’s what I’d concentrate on. Your mileage may vary. This is just one man’s opinion.

1. The area between Forest Lake Road and Northside Drive could use a turn lane. There are lots and lots of roads intersecting in that area and there is enough congestion in that section between people headed home and people headed out in the mornings and evenings, a turn lane would allow people turning into their neighborhoods to get out of the way of the rest of us wanting to go forward. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stopped in front of the Methodist church’s pumpkin patch just because someone eight cars up was trying to turn onto one of the intersecting roads.

Image2. I’m not all in favor of filling up Forest Hill with roundabouts. I grew up on them and I’m not afraid of them, but all the blue haired old people around here would probably be intimidated, having never experienced them before. Likewise, they can really back up traffic on a road like Forest Hill making it difficult for people to get in and out of intersecting roads. That said, I think the intersection of Old Lundy, Forest Hill, Lokchapee Dr, and Glenbrook Rd is a prime area for a round about. There is too much happening right in that area. A four lane or a six lane road would make it even worse. A round about would actually calm that area and calming is what it needs. It might be worth considering extending the turn lane from Northside Drive to Afton Court and then having the round about.

Now a side note: If you look between point two and point three on the map, there is absolutely nothing but a straight stretch of road with very few intersecting roads. There are just a lot of driveways and houses in that area. And they most certainly do not need more than two lanes. It is ridiculous to suggest otherwise. At most, perhaps there needs to be a small turn for the traffic into Forest Hill Terrace, but I don’t even see that as being real necessity.

Image3. This intersection is my major source of agony and contention. It is where we could use a bunch of lanes. Heading north toward Wimbush and Northside Drive, a driver is met with a fork in the road. Veering left stays on Forest Hill. Right goes to Wimbush. The rear entrance for Northside hospital is also there. And traffic backs up thick. Here’s what I’d do if I were king for a day:

A) Between the entrance for Northside Hospital and the fork at Forest Hill and Wimbish, I would have . . . brace yourselves . . . five lanes. Headed north bound toward Wimbish, there would be a turn lane to allow north bound traffic wanting into the hospital a lane without blocking those continuing on. There would be a left lane for people continuing on Forest Hill. And there would be a right lane for those turning onto Wimbish. In my experience, there are a lot of people who could easily be funneled out of the way by providing a lane to get into the hospital and, more importantly, providing a lane to get onto Wimbish. I am one of those people who is constantly stuck. All I want to do is veer off onto Wimbish and into my neighborhood.

According to Google Earth, we’re only talking about 300 feet of five lanes. That’s really not a lot.

B) South bound, just before the stoplight at Forest Hill and Wimbish, I’d start a right hand lane that is for a right turn only into Northside Hospital. That’d free up the line for those keeping on Forest Hill while giving those wanting or needing to go to the hospital a better chance of not getting stuck in a long line.

Image4. This is the tricky one. There are always a lot of cars trying to turn onto Ridge heading southbound on Forest Hill. It backs everyone up. Likewise, there are frequent spill overs onto Vineville because of the people turning on Forest Hill who are caught at the light at Ridge. Here’s what I’d do:

A) I’d have a turn lane on the southbound side into Overlook. Give some people a first chance to get into the Ingleside neighborhood there, without going all the way down to Ridge. Do the same at the Prado. Smooth that area out, provide raised medians to really control and organize the traffic in the turn lanes, but encourage, via turn lanes, people to get into their neighborhood with those two roads.

B) At Ridge Ave, provide a south bound turn lane to the left of significant length to pull people out of the main flow of traffic on Forest Hill. Likewise, provide a south bound turn lane to the right for people wrapping around to get out on Forsyth without going up to the stop light. This turn lane would not have to be of any great length.

C) Northbound, I’d keep the no left turn on the little extension of Ridge. I would, however, make it two lanes north bound, with the right lane being a mandatory right turn onto Ridge. That’d keep traffic from backing up, more or less, onto Vineville.

That’s it. That’s the whole road reconstruction program in my mind. Your mileage may vary.

I think there are some central premises that have to be understood by all sides.

First, Forest Hill is a major artery and anything we can do to provide efficient travel for all the vehicles we should do.

Second, Forest Hill is no longer going to be the major thoroughfare that was once envisioned. The Macon Mall is becoming a relic. While there is still the Target shopping center, a lot of the traffic on the north side of the Wimbish-Forest Hill fork in the road are going to be going up to the shops at Bass Road now.

With a limited pool of dollars and major construction on the north side of Macon, our highway planning geniuses should be working to improve traffic flow on Forest Hill, but should be turning their attention to expanding Bass Road — a road that has rapidly become the corridor for the north side of Macon and will be much more so when all the new stores open up.

To still be focusing all the attention on Forest Hill as a major traffic corridor is stupid. But what can you expect from urban planners. These are, after all, the people who built Central City Park eons ago only to see the city move north, away from the park.

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Erick Erickson

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