Rep. Gingrey spoke with those in attendance about issues facing the country and the 11th Congressional District, instructed attendees on how to comment on issues facing their communities on www.AmericaSpeakingOut.com and presented Congressional recognition for military service to a local citizen.
The floor was then opened for questions, which covered a variety of topics from healthcare to the economy, among others. CORR was able to ask Rep. Gingrey his position on the state’s proposed route for the 411 Connector – see transcript of his answer below.
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Transcript of 411 Connector Q&A:
Congressman Gingrey: Miles north of here in our district, the Georgia Department of Transportation is proposing to spend at least $184 million of taxpayer money on the U.S. 411 Connector, a road that links Rome to I-75. Based on your knowledge about the road, what is your position about the state’s proposed route?
[When I was campaigning…I went to] Bartow and Floyd, the cities of Cartersville and Rome, and asked what their number one, number two, number three concerns were and if I were blessed with the opportunity to represent them, what did they want me to accomplish? What did they most want me to accomplish?
That 411 Connector (all of you may not be familiar with it), but as you go from here to Rome, Georgia, it’s almost impossible to get through Bartow County and downtown Cartersville – because there’s no direct access. Unfortunately, it’s not just you and your family… maybe your youngsters playing little league ball up in Chattooga. It’s big 18 wheelers and a lot of heavy, heavy equipment – that sort of thing on that road and also having to negotiate the current terms because there is no interchange directly between state road 411, and I-75. So that’s what this issue is all about.
The folks in Northwest Georgia have been wanting this connector for 30-something years! I think it goes way back to Congressman Davis. There have been a number of members of Congress representing the area, but we’re talking literally 30 years ago. Members of the Georgia General Assembly – Democrats and Republicans – under different governors have tried to make that happen.
So when I got to Washington, I realized that President Bush had a fast track authority for certain transportation projects across the country. In that particular year, 2003 (I think), there were eight to 10 [projects]. In fact, the rebuilding of a transportation infrastructure at Ground Zero in lower Manhattan was one of those projects.
Indeed this 411 Connector – because of my great staff and the concerns of people in Northwest Georgia in the 11th Congressional District – we were able to get that project listed as one that was going to be fast tracked. We were able to get a commitment from federal Department of Transportation of $25 million to go towards that project to begin the purchase of right-of-way.
So the federal government, along with DOT, the Georgia Department of Transportation, studied the route, and I think there was something like eight different routes that were suggested. There were public hearings, public input, number crunching and the engineers ultimately decided on – I think it’s Route D (of the eight). At that point, my input into it was just making sure that we got the record of decision passed and the environmental impact studies done. But as far as route selection, I had no clue as to what they would select – and shouldn’t.
And so I am very disappointed, and this maybe is the crux of your question, the very wealthy family that owns some of the land along that route, right-of-way, I think they have a [quote signals] farm that maybe they go to once or twice a year.
But this is a very, very wealthy family that has been trying to block this for over 30 years, and once again, they’re doing everything they can to stop this.
I will continue to try to fulfill my pledge to the people of Northwest Georgia in the 11th Congressional district, and God willing will see cars on that interchange before I’m called to my greater glory. So thank you for that question. I really appreciate it.