Work exposes homes to life on interstate

  • Follow Metro

Anna Seigler admits she's fighting a last-minute battle, but she feels she has no choice.

Back | Next
Anna Seigler shows a section of trees between Interstate 20 and her neighborhood that the Department of Transportation plans to cut down to build a sound barrier wall. Ms. Seigler is fighting to preserve those trees.  Chris Thelen/Staff
Chris Thelen/Staff
Anna Seigler shows a section of trees between Interstate 20 and her neighborhood that the Department of Transportation plans to cut down to build a sound barrier wall. Ms. Seigler is fighting to preserve those trees.

By the end of the year, the long swath of trees that serves as the only barrier between her neighborhood and Interstate 20 will be cut down as crews continue work on a $51 million lane expansion of the highway between Warren Road and the Augusta Canal.

Ms. Seigler, who lives on Skinner Road near the entrance to the Holly Haven subdivision, said she sees no point in the crews removing what little protection she has from the busy interstate.

"Why do they want to do this?" Ms. Seigler said. "They're just exposing us."

A little more than a week ago, crews from the Georgia Department of Transportation began removing trees alongside I-20 in advance of a project that will add one lane to each side of the interstate in the existing median. A concrete wall will be added between the lanes and the bridges spanning Washington Road. River Watch Parkway will be widened as well.

DOT spokeswoman Cissy McNure wrote in an e-mail that the trees are being removed because of liability issues - fatal car accidents often involve trees. She also said branches and limbs could fall in the road and cause traffic delays.

DOT engineer Mike Keene said he doesn't know of an instance where this has happened on I-20 in Augusta, but that the trees would have to go anyway because work crews need room for machinery to install new fencing and sound walls.

He said the walls will be safer for vehicles because they are built to deflect the impact of a vehicle.

"We're trying to get the accident rate down to one vehicular death per 100 million vehicle miles," Mr. Keene said. "With trees being on the right of way, that's one of the larger causes of death all over the state, not just here."

Ms. Seigler's home sits just a stone's throw from where backhoes will clear the pines that isolate the neighborhood from the road. In an attempt to prevent the crews from cutting the trees, Ms. Seigler has tried to rally residents and has met with Department of Transportation officials, but she's had no luck.

She's concerned that without the trees, her home will become too noisy and possibly more prone to robberies.

She might be right. Across the interstate sits Olin Plunkett's home and business, Plunkett Heating and Air Conditioning. Mr. Plunkett said burglars have broken into his warehouse twice since the trees were cut down.

He said he understands that the property is the DOT's and that it can do as it wishes. He just hopes for something to cut down on the noise and provide some cover.

"You cannot sit down and hold a conversation outside," Mr. Plunkett said.

According to the state Department of Transportation's Web site, a sound barrier will be built in front of Mr. Plunkett's business. A second wall will cover the area near Ms. Seigler's neighborhood and the Warren Road Community Center. It will end near Skinner Road, giving some residents a clear view of the interstate.

Jimmy Heath's home on Skinner Mill Road has been exposed for almost two years while he waits on crews to build a barrier wall. The trees near his home were cleared as part of the Crane's Creek culvert project, and in the time since, he said, his house has attracted stranded motorists asking for help.

He doesn't mind helping, or the expansion of the road, but the noise is something he has never gotten used to.

Contractors have one year from the time they are given the green light to begin a project to build sound barriers, according to Ms. McNure. In Mr. Heath's case, the funding was not provided for under the Crane's Creek project. Rather, they will be built in conjunction with the work on the I-20 and Bobby Jones Expressway interchange.

At least one Columbia County resident and his neighbors were able to lobby officials to have a sound barrier built near their homes when trees were cut.

Charles Reynolds lives in the Belglade subdivision off of Old Belair Road, near I-20. He said he and others living in the area were able to have a meeting with DOT officials in Atlanta.

Initially, they were told that no wall would be built, but with the help of 10th District U.S. Rep. Charlie Norwood; Rep. Ben Harbin, R-Evans; and Columbia County Commissioner Tommy Mercer, the state approved $8 million for the barriers earlier this year, according to a story in The Augusta Chronicle.

"It's sort of the old saying you can't fight city hall, and with the DOT that's just about true," Mr. Reynolds said.

Reach Adam Folk at (706) 823-3339 or adam.folk@augustachronicle.com.

Comments (25) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
WhiskyDick
0
Points
WhiskyDick 09/28/07 - 03:30 am
0
0
No sympathy here. People buy

No sympathy here. People buy houses next to busy roads, then seem astonished to learn that the roads become busier, requiring expansion. Why not go live near the airport instead? No chance of that happening here in Augusta, despite the fact that "the value received far exceeds the difference in price."

iletuknow
8
Points
iletuknow 09/28/07 - 03:31 am
0
0
She should have seen this

She should have seen this coming some time ago with ample time to sell and move out.

patriciathomas
42
Points
patriciathomas 09/28/07 - 03:58 am
0
0
Not a good situation for the

Not a good situation for the home owners, but when you live next to an interstate this can happen. Location is the first choice one makes when buying a house.

BAMABOY
20
Points
BAMABOY 09/28/07 - 05:14 am
0
0
I have lived with this

I have lived with this situation for nearly two years as my home backs up to the I-20 on ramp from Davis Road. DOT has been great to work with and have promised to get the sound barrier up as soon as they can. Ms. Seigler needs to lighten up.

momma mia
2
Points
momma mia 09/28/07 - 05:56 am
0
0
I'm more concerned about the

I'm more concerned about the destruction of habitat for wildlife and birds.

pointstoponder
898
Points
pointstoponder 09/28/07 - 06:07 am
0
0
Whiskey, some of the people

Whiskey, some of the people living on Skinner Mill Road were there before I 20.

LouLou
6
Points
LouLou 09/28/07 - 06:32 am
0
0
Hey call the 3 men & truck in

Hey call the 3 men & truck in they'll take care of EVERYTHING! :)

threadaneedle
0
Points
threadaneedle 09/28/07 - 06:38 am
0
0
Even though I live close to

Even though I live close to the interstate project I am more concerned about what is happening to the wild life, just like DFM posted. I understand this is progress in the making, but I am new to Augusta, and just don't understand why they need to widen I-20, and what is actually going on at the intersections of Bobby Jones and Scott Dixon. I know that I would not want to be living in the apt's that are located on that corner. Or are they going to be evicted from their homes, just like the animal life has been evicted from theirs with the taking down of all the trees.

Iceman
0
Points
Iceman 09/28/07 - 06:45 am
0
0
Wildlife habitat? Interstate?

Wildlife habitat? Interstate? Somehow, I think the birds will adjust....

BAMABOY
20
Points
BAMABOY 09/28/07 - 06:48 am
0
0
DFM and Threadaneedle, My

DFM and Threadaneedle,

My neighbors have been given permission to plant trees and shrubs on the right of way between our fence and the sound barrier once it is up. We feel we need to replace the habitat and we want the birds back. plus if is ecofriendly. DOT is helping to pay for the re-vegitation. Thanks to them for the help.

lovingthesouth72
1410
Points
lovingthesouth72 09/28/07 - 07:56 am
0
0
As long as they offer an

As long as they offer an option to put up a barrier once they are done, then I would say, hang in there. We need the highway improvements!!

pointstoponder
898
Points
pointstoponder 09/28/07 - 08:03 am
0
0
Fo those of you that have no

Fo those of you that have no sympathy, remember, not everyone moved onto a busy road. Ask residents on Belair and Fury's Ferry Roads. It has not been that long ago that both were quiet two lane roads. I agree if you knowingly move to a busy area and then complain, you really don't have a leg to stand on. but, that is not always the case and selling once the busy comes is not easy. I guess for some of you , passing the problems on to someone else is ethical

kai@reasontostand.org
1
Points
kai@reasontostand.org 09/28/07 - 08:31 am
0
0
I live right next to Ms.

I live right next to Ms. Seigler and would like those of you who blithely throw out "you should have known..." that we do know and accept the noise from I-20 but love our location and homes. Ms. Seigler has lived in this neighborhood for many years and hasn't complained about the truck drivers who carelessly use their air-brakes right next to her house, nor the stray bullets from the boneheads who think it cute to discharge random weapons from the interstate. However, needlessly clearing the trees will take out the only solace we have in this neighborhood that makes it a worthwhile place to live. Without the trees providing some cover from the interstate, not only will crime rates go up, good neighbors will leave and Augusta will have one more ghetto to police.

johnsmith
9
Points
johnsmith 09/28/07 - 09:24 am
0
0
GA DOT is made up of idiots.

GA DOT is made up of idiots. #1: If I buy a home with a forest next to it, I expect to be living next to a forest, not an interstate. In case you all haven't noticed, DOT is moving the road--you're telling me that is something you could "foresee" in your neighborhood? I mean, hell, there's a road there, it MIGHT get bigger! #2: DOT says that trees are hazardous. That's hogwash. Trees are only hazardous to the single vehicle that leaves the road when it ought not. Trees are a much more resilient thing to run into than a large concrete wall. Cars that hit big concrete walls almost always end up with a dead person in them. #3: Again, re: DOT's safety claims. It may be true that the driver of the vehicle is better off, when running off the road, hitting somebody's board fence and smashing through their backyard. Those people's children, however, cannot be said to be more safe. There are "plans" to build the big concrete wall o' death...what about while we're waiting for those plans to happen? #4: Is DOT going to compensate those homeowners for the loss in property values? In sum, what a huge amount of garbage to go through for a project of minimal benefit to ANYONE.

pointstoponder
898
Points
pointstoponder 09/28/07 - 09:27 am
0
0
Actually, DOT is NOT moving

Actually, DOT is NOT moving the road. The additional lanes will be in the existing median. They removed the trees to grade for the sound walls that replace the trees.

johnsmith
9
Points
johnsmith 09/28/07 - 09:27 am
0
0
As near as I can tell, the

As near as I can tell, the end result of all this horsesqueeze is that there will be some more exits from I20, the same old dangerous entry/exit lanes, no trees, an ugly and unwelcoming "face" on Augusta, more noise/dust/pollution for several, formerly nice neighborhoods, and an extra lane for the all the 18-wheelers to drive 80 miles per hour in, while passenger cars are getting tickets for driving 65-in-a-55. And no, I don't live anywhere near I20, and I've never gotten a ticket in Augusta. I just look at the long string of INCREDIBLE DOT SUCCESSES since I've lived here, and scratch my head. Who can forget the eternal BJE project? Fury's Ferry? The resurfacing of the ONE mile of I20 that did not need resurfacing, and that, by the way, 3 years later, they've now torn up 2 more times to do the latest LSD-induced project...wow...your tax dollars at work. I can't wait until these same idiots are in charge of telling me which doctor to go see...

dougk
3
Points
dougk 09/28/07 - 09:37 am
0
0
It's TWO men and a truck
Unpublished

It's TWO men and a truck

TrukinRanger
1749
Points
TrukinRanger 09/28/07 - 09:46 am
0
0
Just think of all the privacy
Unpublished

Just think of all the privacy you'll get once the wall is built.

Little Lamb
50750
Points
Little Lamb 09/28/07 - 09:52 am
0
0
I, too, think that a buffer

I, too, think that a buffer of trees is better than a sound barrier. That was also the thinking of the DOT in the 60s and 70s. But they've had a change in policy and they believe in walls now. A little off the subject, but I do support DOT's current thinking that concrete medians on multi-lane surface roads are better than suicide lanes. But unfortunately, the merchants usually beat the DOT down with their loud rants that concrete medians prevent their customers from turning into their business. My experience is that the DOT provides U-turn spots where it's feasible and that's how you can get to the businesses on the left hand side.

pointstoponder
898
Points
pointstoponder 09/28/07 - 09:57 am
0
0
Much of what the the various

Much of what the the various state DOT's enact is done trying to keep us from killing ourselves. Pity that no one considers learning to be a competent driver might be more effective.

paulwheeler
137
Points
paulwheeler 09/28/07 - 10:21 am
0
0
This lady has my sympathy.

This lady has my sympathy. She is suffering so we can build one more interchange that is not necessary, and will be obsolete in a few years when none of us can afford gasoline. Progress? I don't think so. Trees are more important than wasteful expensive human convenience, and that's all this road project is about.

johnsmith
9
Points
johnsmith 09/28/07 - 12:53 pm
0
0
The headline is: Garden City

The headline is: Garden City "progresses," becomes ugly dusty concrete wasteland. Yippee, how soon can we be JUST like Atlanta?

mojoinaugusta
35
Points
mojoinaugusta 09/28/07 - 12:58 pm
0
0
Brilliant - blame the

Brilliant - blame the homeowners - I can honestly say I've never been endangered by trees somewhere near the road - idiots, yes - drunks, yes, bad drivers, yes - trucks, yes - poorly designed roads, yes, deer, yes - but trees? - NEVER - If you want the homeowners to move so much perhaps you should buy their homes.

chooseausername
0
Points
chooseausername 09/28/07 - 01:57 pm
0
0
It's unfortunate, but there

It's unfortunate, but there isn't anything you can do. If it isn't your property, you don't get the final call do you.
Appreciate the sound barrier, maybe it'll deflect noise better than the small amount of treecover could. Blocks away you can hear the interstate noise.

gnx
7
Points
gnx 09/28/07 - 08:24 pm
0
0
Welcome to the growing club

Welcome to the growing club of owners of noisy homes Ms. Siegler. Just be grateful you're getting a sound barrier. They took our trees and we'll just have to be content with extra dust in the house and an unfettered view of what the GDOT calls progress. We were told the trees were removed for safety reasons too, but 52 miles (26 miles each on both west bound and east bound lanes) of nice straight pines certainly made someone a sweet bundle of money. It's just a pity they couldn't use it to help buffer the noise and aggravation. Now, if they would just make it legal to hunt truckers who like to jake brake just because they see homes... }:-)

full moon
0
Points
full moon 09/29/07 - 01:23 am
0
0
The interchange at BJ and

The interchange at BJ and I-20 is a mess and those poor people can't breath. Don't know what will happen but do know theres got to be progress and when the town was built no one figure it would grow I guess. That's what growth does for you either you go up or out. If you can't take the fire move....Let it grow.....

LouLou
6
Points
LouLou 09/29/07 - 04:10 am
0
0
douk it was Three men

douk it was Three men and truck to begin with. The third fella retired!!!!!

Back to Top
loading...
Top headlines

Funding for homeless down slightly

Federal funding for local homeless programs decreased by $552 this year compared to 2014, which community leaders hope to offset in the future by expanding the city's homeless count into south ...
Search Augusta jobs