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Wayne Hill: Cars, roads, congestion are inevitable 

Excerpts from Creative Loafing's interview with the Gwinnett County Commission chairman

Do you think we've done enough to get people less reliant on cars?

I don't think you're ever going to get people to rely less on cars. I think that the only thing that will stop people from driving is kind of like New York City, when they get so populated they can't move around. But I had a gentleman in here this morning. We were talking. He says, "My car is my freedom." So as long as it's like that, I don't think we ever will get people not to drive.

Should we try?

Well, think about that. Say we decide we're not going to have any more cars. Only thing we're going to do is have replacement cars. What would that do to the economy of the United States? We'd crush our economy overnight if you weren't having all the cars manufactured. I don't think anything is going to improve traffic because of the growth we're going to have. But I think if we don't do some of these things, you're going to look back and say, "Why didn't somebody do it?" Could you imagine not having [State Road] 400 today? Or 285? Do you not think it was a battle when those roads were built?

This is just another battle?

Well, I don't even know if it's another battle. I think it's reality. The reality is we have grown 3 million people in 40 years. The reality is we're probably going to grow another 2, 3 million, but nobody wants to face reality. Roads are always hard, and I think this is just another example of it. Do I believe this is a developer road? Not necessarily. Do I believe development will happen? Probably. But I think it's going to be important to the whole region at some period and time. And again I go back to: Give me an alternate.

But I'm not even arguing it one way or another. I have a seat on the ARC board. When it comes up, without having seen something different than what I've seen, I will vote for it. But I don't want to sit and argue with somebody about it.

I think, if it does take away from other people's [transportation] projects, it's doomed to fail, because I wouldn't vote for it. But I don't know that I have opposed a project anywhere in the region that I felt like some of the people needed or wanted. It's kind of like the 17th Street bridge. I'm not sure that's a great project. It's sucking up millions of dollars, but some people think it is [a great project], and I didn't oppose it. But if you look at it strictly on the air quality, it's not a good project -- that whole development down there is not. It's worse than the Mall of Georgia. But it's done; there ain't no use arguing about it.

Is there anything in particular that has you concerned that could actually stop the Arc?

Not really. I don't know that I see anything that could actually stop it. I mean, you know you have powers of eminent domain with the state. We do that here in Gwinnett. The engineers lay out a road, we go condemn it. We condemned 52 pieces of road at one time on Peachtree Industrial. That's what states and government do.

We hear about L.A. all the time. L.A. is still growing by 25,000 people a year, and everybody talks about how awful it is. Why is Atlanta not going to do that? Will we find a better way to use transit? Sure we will. That'll come, but you gotta have the ridership to do that. And I think, over a period of time, all that will change.

People don't want to ride transit. They want you to ride it so they can drive their car. And until we get over that in the United States, then a lot of things won't change. We'll sit in traffic and we'll grumble about it. My generation is not going to change. My children's [generation] probably won't, my grandchildren's will a little and your children's might. It may take several generations for people to make some lifestyle changes.

Some people are going to choose city life. I am pleased as punch that all that is happening, but while you're doing 1,000 units downtown, you're doing 8,000 in Gwinnett.

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