Monday, November 17, 2014

Oconee County Land Use Committee To Continue Its Discussion Of Daniells Bridge Road Flyover And Other Road Projects

Economic Development Cited

The Oconee County Citizen Advisory Committee for Land Use and Transportation Planning resumes its deliberations about county road priorities tomorrow night with the goal of giving its feedback to the Board of Commissioners in February or March.

The proposed Daniells Bridge Road extension and flyover of SR Loop 10 has dominated both of the meetings the group has held since it began its discussion of road priorities at its meeting on Sept. 9.

The Board of Commissioners asked the LUTPC for advice on county road priorities after the state Department of Transportation sent the county three project framework agreements in July.

The agreements were for the Daniells Bridge Road extension, a widening of Daniells Bridge Road, and a widening of Jimmy Daniell Road.

At the September meeting, discussion was rather critical of the Daniells Bridge Road extension and flyover, but several Committee members expressed support for the project at the meeting in October.

Focus Of Discussion

The four voting commissioners expressed surprise at the timing of the project framework agreements the county received in July. The state Department of Transportation has refused to indicate who has been responsible for bringing them forward at this time.

The agreements alter the time frame, scope and funding for the projects from what had been discussed in the past.

Abe Abouhamdan, who chairs the LUTPC, has told the group it should not concern itself with the reasons for the change in timing of the projects but rather focus on the projects concepts.

The Committee’s assignment, he said, it simply to look at the projects the county has on its list with the Madison Athens-Clarke Oconee Regional Transportation Study (MACORTS) and indicate priorities.

That includes the Mars Hill Road widening, now underway, the three projects covered by the project framework agreements, and the widening of Simonton Bridge Road.

Details Vary

The details of the projects in the MACORTS documents have varied over the years and do not match with those in the project framework agreements. For example, the number of lanes to be built in the extension and to be included in the Daniells Bridge widening are unclear, and the scope of the Jimmy Daniell widening is not specified.

Whether the flyover for the Daniells Bridge Road extension will include exit lanes has varied in the presented plans, as has the exact location of the roadway. None of the plans specify improvements to Daniells Bridge Road at the point where the extension drops traffic back on the existing roadway.

County Strategic and Long-Range Planning Director Wayne Provost told the group those details will be determined by the Georgia Department of Transportation once the project moves forward.

Abouhamdan said the Committee should ignore those issues and focus simply on whether it thinks the extension and flyover are good ideas and whether some variation of widening of Daniells Bridge Road from some point to Hog Mountain Road and some variation of the widening of Jimmy Daniell Road deserve Committee support.

Bob Isaac, a member of the Land Use Committee, expressed frustration with that strategy in the video below from the October meeting.

Isaac lives in Welbrook Farms subdivision off Daniells Bridge Road, as do I.

Cofer And Gilland

Stu Cofer, another committee member who lives in Oconee County but has his garden store in Athens-Clarke County, said that the county needs to recognize that the SR 316 and Epps Bridge Parkway corridor is the major commercial center of the county.

Cofer said Daniells Bridge Road extension and flyover would relieve traffic on that route.

Committee member Tammy Gilland said she had talked to businesses in the area of the proposed road and they are very supportive. The video below is of her comments.

Provost Comments

Provost, director of Strategic and Long-Range Planning, told the Committee members that the Daniells Bridge Road extension and flyover had a long history.

The goal of the project, according to Provost, is to create alternative ways for traffic to flow from “Daniells Bridge Road and points beyond” to Epps Bridge commercial area, Athens and the University of Georgia without going through the SR Loop 10 interchange with SR 316 or the Oconee Connector intersection with SR 316.

But the project also has another purpose, Provost said.

“There is potentially an economic development factor because it would provide access to properties that might not otherwise have access,” he said.

Provost didn’t identify those properties.

Boswell Listings

At present, the Boswell Group is listing seven different properties along what would be the loop created by the proposed Daniells Bridge Road extension and flyover.

Jamie Boswell is owner of the Boswell Group. He also is the area representative to the 14-member state Transportation Board, which oversees state road projects, including the Daniells Bridge Road extension, the widening of Daniells Bridge Road, and the widening of Jimmy Daniell Road.

The first of the Boswell listings is on Daniells Bridge Road heading west just before the intersection with Mars Hill Road and the Oconee Connector.

The Boswell group has three properties at the Daniells Bridge Road, Mars Hill Road and Oconee Connector intersection. These are on the southeast, southwest and northwest corners.

Boswell has another listing on the southwest corner of SR 316 and the Oconee Connector, and a sixth at the southwest corner of the Oconee Connector and Virgil Langford Road.

Evergreen Nursery

A final listing is at the dead end of the Oconee Connector at SR Loop 10, or where the flyover would make it possible for that roadway to continue across SR Loop 10 to Daniells Bridge Road.

That property is owned by nurseryman Bill Ross, who has appeared before the BOC and the LUTPC in support of the flyover and extension.

The 62-acre property currently has access to Dowdy Road, but the extension of the Oconee Connector would offer frontage on that roadway.

In early August, just after the county received the project framework agreements from the state, the property was listed as Under Contract on the Boswell web site.

That designation has been removed from the current listing.

As of Sunday, the sign on the property had been pulled from the poles and was lying on the ground.

The project framework agreements remain unsigned by the county at this time because the four voting commissioners would not approve them, pending the review of the Land Use Committee.

Kittle Petitions

Tom Kittle, 2030 Daniells Bridge Road, whose property would be crossed by the Daniells Bridge Road extension, has been a strong proponent of the project.

At the Oct. 14 meeting of the Land Use Committee, he presented what he said were 23 pages of petitions signed by 268 individuals favoring the project.

He said he could have gotten more with more time.

Kittle, shown in the video below, said the project would be particularly valuable to students from the University of North Georgia, who could cut through Daniells Bridge Road to get to and from classes.

Meeting Venue

The meeting tomorrow night is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. in the Community Center at Veterans Park on Hog Mountain Road.

The Land Use Committee meets only for an hour, and citizens are given a chance to speak only at the end of the meeting.

The group has decided not to meet in December because of the holidays.

Gilland encouraged the group to work more aggressively toward reaching its decision on the projects, but she got no support from others for such a strategy.

Abouhamdan said he was content to bring the discussion to a close in February or March.

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