The importance of that route, or at least the idea behind it of linking to a major north/south interstate, has certainly not diminished even as the obstinacy of a single deep-pockets family fighting the paving of an itty-bitty portion of its vacation-retreat/cattle-ranch holdings has increased.
Alas, to be realistic about it, not a one of the projects on the 1, 2, 3, 4 list of highway priorities is likely to soon appear other than item No. 3: the widening of West Second Avenue from West Third Street to Turner McCall Boulevard. That’s roughly 2,400 feet in length or of “toss a town a bone” dimensions for state funding.
After the defeat of the regional transportation sales-tax penny, with a motor-fuel levy that looks like a typographical error next to what our neighbors collect (7.5 cents a gallon, not the 17.5 cents it should be), plus our community’s interests not exactly backed up by massive political clout — there’s not much chance of anything truly “new” happening.
Yes, No. 2 is the most likely — that’s the four-laning of 7 miles of Ga. 140 from Ga. 53 to U.S. 41 at Adairsville, actually a link to I-75. Does anybody think the giant Lowe’s distribution center, soon to open with a high volume of in/out truck traffic, landed on Ga. 53 without a firm promise of getting something wider, faster, safer than the two-laneroad now existing?
THERE’S NO question but that the 411 Connector is first in the hearts and minds of the citizen/consumers. When all this began more than 30 years ago, the locals still had Atlanta on their minds … stuff like getting to the shopping emporiums, the Braves/Falcons games and so forth. That’s where the public support came from along with erasing the annoyance/confusion of having to go on a magical mystery tour of Cartersville to find I-75 or, even worse, have visitors/relatives try to figure out where Rome could possibly be.
The Connector, although utterly logical, was never sold to the electorate or politicians on the basis of its true value: commerce. Instead it became a popularity contest. Yet, this is and always has been mostly about getting goods/supplies to and from market on the backs of 18-wheelers.
That, quite frankly, could be done (and is being done to some degree) just as well without a 411 Connector. That’s not meant to imply that the Connector shouldn’t still be a priority or that Romans should stop being mad as hell and unwilling to take any more of what certain rich pests have been handing out. It just is intended to point out that, from a practical standpoint, the actual local transportation priority list should be: 1, widening Ga. 140 to Adairs-ville; 2, four-laning Ga. 101 to Rockmart and U.S. 278; 3, widening Second Avenue because with other associated improvements it might provide an alternative to the Turner McCall Boulevard chokepoint; 4. the U.S. 411 Connector.
THAT LAST is overrated as to actual economic (commerce) impact now although certainly not when the project first came to the fore. But today Atlanta, for most truckers, is entirely a place they wish they could avoid. As for local shoppers, getting to the “big city” with its delights of inventory preceded the Internet, which has everything including what can’t be found in Atlanta. And, with the right choices, one can order today and have it delivered at one’s Rome doorstep tomorrow.
As for the “big games” — priced the tickets lately? And all seats are better in front of a 60-inch flat screen that did not exist three decades ago. The beer is colder, too.
Who needs access to an Atlanta-aimed interstate other than for rare travel or business meeting necessities? Heck, it is even easier and faster to use the U.S. 278 four-lane corridor to get to the airport … and I-75 toward Macon/Florida … and I-20 east and west.
However, business interests and particularly manufacturing ones are still semi-stuck if deciding to set up shop in Rome because two-lane antiquities — dangerous besides — stand between them and those clever Atlanta bypass routes. A Rome, one might add, that has become a decidedly more overall pleasant and less expensive place to live and set up shop than the Atlanta metro or any big urban setting. All it lacks is faster, better access to the interstate arteries as it already has mainline railroad service.
THE GA. 140 four-laning should be No. 1 because it is not only fairly short and hence inexpensive to accomplish, but also because it opens up a straight-through, four-lane to and from Rome from the north via interstates. Look at any map. Most of the U.S. population (read: customers) are to the north of Rome and east-west routing is just as easy in that direction, perhaps more so, than trying to get to Atlanta to achieve the same thing.
Now look at what should be the true No. 2: four-laning with median of Ga. 101 to Rockmart. That’s worth it for the reduction in future funerals and hospitalizations alone. However, it opens up a four-lane route to various interstates that bypasses the tangled Atlanta core on the south side. Unfortunately, there are stoplights but think about it as a trucker/dispatcher would whether going north, south, east, west of Atlanta: What’s worse, being slowed by traffic lights or entirely stopped for unknown periods of time by traffic tangles and highway-blocking wrecks?
Greater Rome’s commercial future no longer has all its eggs in that single 411 Connector basket, as was originally the case. That pathway absolutely still holds great value for individual travel and perhaps even tourism but much less than before for commerce. Indeed, just look at the many companies that make things that have come here despite the Connector not being there.
if the Connector appears then commerce, at least if wishing to head south, still has to negotiate a central Atlanta tangle that is way, way worse than it was 30 years ago when this project first landed on the books. The grim reality is that, given the politics of tax distribution, any better connections that Rome wants with “the outside world” are what bookies would call longshots.
To some extent, a desire to pursue the Connector vigorously is worth it just for the pleasure of ultimately rubbing the opposition’s faces in the people’s best interests prevailing over theirs.
Alas, even that future joy cannot make up for this bitter, bitter truth: If the 411 Connector had been completed 30 years ago, how many more billions of dollars — yes, billions — would have flowed through Greater Rome and how many tens of thousands of additional local jobs would there be?
Ramming a Connector through Dobbins Mountain is not enough payback for that.