Sunday, September 11, 2011

Oconee County Citizen Committee To Discuss Its List of Transportation Concerns Tuesday

Ranking 23

The Oconee County Citizen Advisory Committee on Land Use and Transportation Planning is scheduled to review its ranked list of 23 Roadway, Intersection and Transportation Concerns on Tuesday night before sending the list to county officials for possible action.

The Committee generated the list back in May, discussed it again in July, and is set to give it a final review, starting at 7 p.m. on Tuesday at the Oconee County Community Center at Oconee Veterans Park.

Rated most pressing by the committee in balloting it conducted since that July meeting are improvements to the intersection of Union Church Road and Hog Mountain Road, to the intersection of Rocky Branch Road, Mars Hill Road and Virgil Langford Road, and to the intersection of Malcolm Bridge Road and Hog Mountain Road.

Next highest on the list of concerns is the intersection of Mars Hill Road and Hog Mountain Road at Butler’s Crossing and the entrance to Gainesville State College on Experiment Station Road, just south of Butler’s Crossing.

All of the high-priority projects as well as most of the others on the list are in the heavily populated northern part of the county.

The Committee began working on the list at its meeting on May 10 at the suggestion of Chairman Abe Abouhamdan, who said the Committee had engaged in a similar exercise in the past and been able to realize transportation improvements as a result.

He said the Committee had “looked at issues that we have in our community that might be not safe, that might could use some improvements.” He suggested that the Committee do the same thing again and pass along its concerns to county department heads.

The Committee generated a list that night and added to it at its meeting on July 12, where it also agreed that Committee members would look over the list before Tuesday’s meeting and identify concerns that were of high, medium and low priority in terms of which should be addressed first.

The Committee didn’t meet in August, and it had devoted its June meeting to the county’s potential purchase of two buildings and property that now make up the Courthouse Annex opposite the courthouse in downtown Watkinsville.

The Committee did recommend such a purchase, and the matter is now before the Board of Commissioners.

The Committee is made up of 14 members, but only nine were at the May 10 meeting and the July 12 meeting, and only 10 participated in the rankings, which Angela Helwig, recording secretary for the Committee, released last week in advance of Tuesday’s meeting.

Eight of the Committee members voting rated the intersection of Union Church Road and Hog Mountain Road as a high priority, with two rating it as moderate in priority. The Committee is seeking additional turn lanes at Oconee County High School.

The intersection of Rocky Branch, Mars Hill and Virgil Langford roads was rated as a high priority by eight of the members and a low priority by two. The Committee is seeking realignment of the intersection, possibly with construction of a roundabout.

The Committee didn’t specify what it wants done at the intersection of Malcolm Bridge Road and Hog Mountain Road, only indicating that “there have been several bad wrecks” at the intersection. That project was highly rating by seven Committee members, with one scoring it of medium priority and two scoring it as low priority.

Five Committee members scored the Butler’s Crossing intersection and the Gainesville State College entrance as high priorities.

In Butler’s Crossing, the Committee is seeking a change in the turn signals. At Gainesville State, the Committee wants the median altered.

The Committee is scheduled to review these rankings on Tuesday night, according to the released agenda.

Consistent with past policy, the agenda indicates the Committee will accept public input on the list and rankings but only after the Committee has completed its own deliberations on the matter. Public comment also is restricted to that single agenda item, according to the released agenda.

The Committee discussions of its concerns about local intersection and transportation issues follows a meeting on Thursday of last week at the Oconee County Civic Center by the Northeast Georgia Regional Transportation Roundtable.

That group was previewing the projects that most likely will be on the ballot in August of 2012 when voters will be asked to decide if they want to increase the sales tax for 10 years by one cent on a dollar to fund transportation improvements.

The projects from Oconee County on the list were a much reduced set from those reviewed and approved by the Oconee County Land Use and Transportation Planning Committee in March.

About 30 people attended the Roundtable meeting, but many of the attendees were reporters and officials from the affected counties.

Oconee Patch covered the story. I have produced a video below that contains the opening comments of Hunter Bicknell, chairman of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners and chairman of the executive committee of the Roundtable. Russ Page recorded the video.

Bicknell explained the steps for paring down the list of submitted projects from the counties but did not discuss criteria used.

I was not able to attend either the May 10 or July 12 meeting of the Land Use and Transportation Planning Committee. Sarah Bell did attend and made video recordings of the meeting for me.

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