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We're lucky there's not a Northern Arc

Remember, a few years ago, how courageously our elected officials withstood pressure to build a "Northern Arc" linking Interstates 85 and 75? Several recent trips between Lawrenceville and Marietta have given me plenty of time to appreciate their foresight.

After all, what kind of person, driving from the northeast corner of the metro area to the northwest, wouldn't want to head south first in order to take in all the scenic vistas along I-285? Doraville is beautiful this time of year, as are Chamblee, Dunwoody, Roswell and Sandy Springs.

A northern arc would not only cause east-to-north travelers to bypass those picturesque communities, it would also deprive them of significant opportunities to enjoy the journey. In this fast-paced world, aren't you grateful for an opportunity just to slow down a little and smell the exhaust fumes ... er, roses?

Another reason I'm glad we didn't create a new highway is the expense. Think of all the millions of dollars we'd have spent just to save a few thousand barrels of oil each week, and maybe a couple hours here and there moving products from one side of Atlanta to the other. It's not like, in business, time is money.

Sure, if we'd built a northern arc 20 years ago, it wouldn't have cost nearly as much. But that's just traffic under the overpass, so to speak. As it is, we might not have to create such a route for another 20 years. Meanwhile, think of all the money we're saving.

And, of course, it's not just the money. We're also talking about time and convenience. Imagine the mess if we tried constructing a brand new road all the way from, say, Hoschton to Canton. Such a project could take years!

It's been bad enough while they've been working on the 316/85 interchange for the past 18 months. And where has that gotten us?

OK, so traffic flows a little better on 316. And you can get to Pleasant Hill without staring death in the face while crossing six lanes of traffic. But does that really improve your quality of life?

Mostly, though, I think about all those families who'd be displaced if we built a freeway through their neighborhoods. Tearing down a few townhomes in Norcross I could deal with, maybe, but bulldozing $700,000 subdivisions in Sugar Hill is another matter entirely.

Sure, lots of people had to move when I-85 came through, when Ronald Reagan Parkway was constructed and when the Mall of Georgia went up. But that was then and this is now. Why disrupt the lives of 400 to 500 families just so the 2.5 million citizens of Gwinnett, Hall, Barrow and Jackson counties can get to Chattanooga a little easier?

Some might call that progress, but I'd call it government overreaching its bounds. Whoever asked them to build highways, anyway?

E-mail Rob Jenkins, associate professor of English at Georgia Perimeter College, at rjenkinsgdp@yahoo.com.