Local officials supporting an interchange at I-95 and Belfast Siding have public backing, if the poll on the Bryancountynews.net website is to be believed.
Indeed, supporters of such an interchange outnumber those against it by a 54-36 margin. That’s hardly a landslide, but it isn’t enough to throw the vote into a recount, either.
Proponents of the interchange say it will ease traffic congestion on Highway 144 and spark development in South Bryan. Opponents believe a new interchange will simply create more traffic while also sparking more development in South Bryan.
Both are probably right.
You don’t add development and decrease traffic, but you also can’t provide alternatives to Highway 144 without an alternative.
And, at the end of the day, it’s very likely the interchange at I-95 and Belfast Siding will be built — perhaps in about three to five years — because it has too much support from those who believe it key to the community’s economic future.
It’s going to change the face of Richmond Hill still more. The city is already set to annex property in the area of the Belfast Siding Commerce Center and Terra Pointe, a planned development that’s been on the drawing board for years and could, by the time it’s done, add another 10,000 or so as-yet-unbuilt homes to the to the city limits.
In addition, at a recent planning retreat at Richmond Hill City Council, officials were told that Wal-Mart has shown interest in locating a store in the area served by the new interchange, if there’s a new interchange.
One stump in the road for the interchange could be if voters shoot down the Transportation Investment Act, which if passed will create TSPLOSTs, or local option sales taxes to pay for transportation projects on a regional basis. Still, were it not to pass there are probably other alternatives out there and no doubt local officials will continue to pursue them.
Given the sometimes polarizing effect of Wal-Mart when it comes to where they locate their stores, the notion of a Wal-Mart in Richmond Hill could respark the debate about the future of South Bryan as residents try to define their community.
It’s a debate that has been almost absent in recent years. Not so long ago, South Bryan was growing by leaps and bounds, too fast for some who saw it changing their small community.
The housing market crash and subsequent economic woes changed all that, of course, as mere survival became the order of the day for many and new business was welcome.
Those days are hopefully behind us. In the meantime, it’s good to be back to being able to debate the direction of growth again.