Traffic tops Henry commissioners 2020 legislative priorities list

Traffic congestion around Ga. 155 one of the biggest headaches in fast-growing Henry County. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

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Traffic congestion around Ga. 155 one of the biggest headaches in fast-growing Henry County. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Addressing Henry County's out-of-control traffic congestion — especially around its growing warehousing businesses — tops the 2020 legislative priorities list for commissioners in the south metro community.

At a meeting with the county’s delegation to the General Assembly, commissioners said continuing to get state and federal help for the community’s snarled highways and gridlocked local roads is paramount as Henry tries to deal with big-city traffic on roads built to support its rural past.

"Our citizens are concerned about traffic congestion," Henry County Commission Chairwoman June Wood told the delegation Tuesday. "That is a concern throughout the metro area, but our issue is a little different in that we still have so many two-lane roads. And with the growth that we are experiencing, we just know that we've got to continue to think ahead."

Henry is among dozens of communities across the metro area having discussions on priorities as the 2020 legislative session draws near. State funding for roads and transportation planning will be crucial to Henry, which has seen its population almost double since 2000.

That growth also has caused strain between the county and its four cities: Stockbridge, Hampton, McDonough and Locust Grove. The commissioners also asked the legislators for help in developing controls that could curb the ability of cities to annex unincorporated county property, which has made it difficult for Henry leaders to develop comprehensive land use plans.

“We’re asking you to look at the process of whether an annexation is necessary or not,” Commissioner Vivian Thomas said.

Thomas also asked the legislators to pump the brakes harderon cityhood efforts. She said communities are promised the moon by organizations that profit from creating new cities, but too often look to counties or the legislature when the numbers don't add up and they need financial support.

Thomas represents Stockbridge, which fought a two-year battle against its wealthy Eagle's Landing community, which wanted to become Henry's fifth city. Voters defeated the measure at the ballot box in November 2018.

“I’m trying to make sure Stockbridge stays whole and healthy,” she said.

Karen Mathiak (R-Griffin) said it’s important for the legislature to take the needs of the southside seriously. Mathiak, who represents parts of Hampton, said she ran for office out of frustration that so much state funding was going to communities north of Atlanta.

“We pay tax dollars just like the north side does,” Mathiak told the group. “Back in the day politicians would say, “‘We ain’t bringing that pork to the south side.’ Well why not?”