The Georgia Department of Transportation expects to begin purchasing right of way for the widening of U.S. 441 from the Watkinsville bypass to the Madison bypass in the summer of 2018, representatives of the state agency told a gathering of about 50 citizens last Thursday night.
GDOT plans to let the project for construction in the spring of 2021, the state highway officials told the group, which included the eight members of a Sounding Board appointed by the Oconee County Board of Commissioners to provide citizen involvement in the project.
Albert Shelby III, state program delivery engineer with GDOT, who did most of the talking at the meeting, stated repeatedly that no route has been determined for the roadway, which likely will include a bypass of Bishop. Shelby said the examination of options is starting with the current roadway.
According to a fact sheet Shelby and his colleagues distributed at the meeting, the state is expecting to release a revised concept plan for the roadway next summer and to have preliminary plans completed in the spring of 2018.
Little New Ground
Bill Douglas, a member of the Sounding Board, said at the outset of the meeting that he had asked GDOT to meet with local citizens to give an update on developments that have transpired since the last meeting of the Sounding Board in December.
Shelby said he had little new to report, and he spent much of the nearly 75-minute-long meeting restating that point.
Shelby said that it was unusual for citizens to be so involved in a road project this early in the process and that, under normal plans, it would not be until the spring of next year that he would reach out to the community for input on plans for the road through appointment of a Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC).
The video clip below, from late in the meeting, gives a sense of the session. Shelby begins by responding to a question from Del Finco on the archaeological impact research being conducted and then responds to a follow-up question from Carole Ludwig.
Both Finco and Ludwig own farms on the eastern side of Bishop that could be affected by the bypass of Bishop.
Mayor Says Bypass Bishop
Bishop Mayor Johnny Pritchett, a member of the Sounding Board, said at the meeting’s end that the state cannot use the existing roadway inside the city of Bishop.
Truck traffic in particular is making the city unsafe.
Pritchett said he didn’t care where the bypass went.
“Bishop needs to be bypassed for us to survive as a town,” he says in the video clip below.
The complete video of the April 28 meeting, held at the Oconee County Library in Watkinsville, is below.