Hawkinsville is a great, small, community located in Middle Georgia. The Golden Isles parkway goes right through the middle of our wonderful town. While most cities on Highway 341 have been bypassed, due to the location of our dual bridges, Hwy 341 comes right through the middle of our town.
Currently we have two bridges that are 1 city block apart from each other. The “Commerce Street” bridge handles the northbound (inbound) traffic coming from Eastman, Ga. The “Broad Street” bridge handles the southbound (outgoing) traffic going toward Eastman. It has been this way since the late 1950’s.
Our downtown is located on Commerce Street which was the “main” street during the 50’s. Due to the dual bridge situation, and the increase in traffic that resulted on Broad Street, that street has also developed into a major business district as well. In fact, today, Broad Street carries the heaviest traffic burden. Commerce Street handles about 40-45% of the volume that Broad Street currently handles.
We became aware of a DOT proposal this summer. They are proposing that both bridges be torn down and that the Broad Street bridge be replaced with a 4 lane incoming & outgoing bridge. The city leadership and the majority of the citizens of Hawkinsville are very much AGAINST this proposal. In fact, the City Commissioners voted UNANIMOUSLY to oppose this plan. We are in opposition of this plan for 3 primary reasons:
1. It is our feeling that diverting traffic away from our main business district would be detrimental to the businesses located on that street. Like most small downtowns, our downtown district is struggling. And we want to do whatever we possibly can to retain our local businesses vitality and the community’s character. Diverting traffic would certainly have an adverse effect on business. In fact, The Department of Economic Development’s tourism division was doing a study of our tourism potential the same week this “proposal” was unleashed. Bruce Green, director of this project, said to us personally AND included it in their final report to us – “that we should NOT let this happen!”
2. Our second concern is the additional traffic on Broad Street. Our traffic lights are already backing up WAY down the road. One intersection (Broad Street and the Hwy 341 bypass) is a terrible mess already. We have LOTS of our citizens employed by the Warner Robins Air Force Base, and as they return home, this intersection is overloaded and cars are backed up WAY down the road (this intersection has no traffic light). Increasing traffic on Broad Street will make this road impossible to cross and unsafe for both drivers and pedestrians.
3. And our third argument is that we feel safer with two bridges. Should any natural disaster (tornadoes, floods, etc) ever cause one of our bridges to be unusable, we like having a secondary bridge that can be used to navigate across the river. Without at least one bridge, we are removed from the community of Hartford and several businesses that are located on that side of the river.
We are known for our dual bridges. We want to keep our dual bridges. Our local representatives in the state house and senate are fully on board with helping us rectify this flawed concept of a single bridge. Regent Larry Walker has been most gracious in attempting to help us with this concern. Regent Mansfield Jennings is from Hawkinsville and has expressed interest in helping us as well.
DOT came for a local “listening session” a few days ago and our community came out IN FORCE in opposition to this proposal.
i would love to hear additional thoughts and suggestions on this. What is YOUR feelings on this subject? Let me know!