Sunday, June 12, 2016

GDOT To Provide Update On U.S. 441 Widening On Tuesday At Oconee County Veterans Park

Expand Sounding Board

Bruce Anderson Jr., Georgia Department of Transportation project manager for the widening of U.S. 441 and Bishop Bypass, has called a meeting for Tuesday to provide an update of work on the highway project.

The meeting is scheduled for from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at the Community Center in Oconee Veterans Park, 3500A Hog Mountain Road.

In an email message sent on Tuesday morning to the Sounding Board created by the Oconee County Board of Commissioners and to others, Anderson said the meeting is to “provide an update on the latest GDOT activities in the area” and to introduce members of the project consultant team.

Anderson said GDOT also will be seeking “input” on “other community representatives” to be involved in the discussions about the project in the future.

GDOT late last month also released the fully executed second task order with engineering firm Parsons Brinckerhoff Inc. for surveys of the ecological, aquatic , historical and archaeological impact of the project.

Details Of Meeting

Anderson said in his email message that one purpose of the meeting is to “discuss next steps” in the project, which is to involve the widening of U.S. 441 from the bypass of Watkinsville to the bypass of Madison in Morgan County.

GDOT officials have said repeatedly that the state road agency is starting from scratch to identify the right route for the new road and would begin with the existing roadway.

Bishop Mayor Johnny Pritchett made it clear at the most recent meeting of the Sounding Board in April that he and others on the city Council want GDOT to build a bypass of the city to remove truck and other traffic from the small, historic community.

The route of that bypass as well as of the highway between Bishop and the Oconee County line at the Apalachee River has been a topic of controversy since the announcement of the revival of the widening project last year.

Sounding Board

The Oconee County Board of Commissioners, with input from the city of Bishop, appointed an eight person Sounding Board on the project last December.

At the April 28 meeting of that Board, Albert Shelby III, state program delivery engineer with GDOT, said it was possible that GDOT might want to add additional members to the group as the project progresses.

Anderson, in his email, said he was looking “for your input on other community representatives to involve in the US 441 improvements discussion moving forward.”

The addition of others “will insure that all perspectives are represented as we work together as part of a Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) to identify solutions that address transportation issues while also being sensitive to the community’s concerns,” Anderson wrote.

Task Order

The task order GDOT signed with Parsons Brinckerhoff on May 13 stipulates that the company, an international engineering services firm with offices in Atlanta, is to prepare and implement a public involvement plan and prepare and participate in a public information open house.

It is to provide to GDOT as a deliverable on the nearly $1 million contract minutes of “stakeholder meetings” as well as of “Citizens’ Advisory committee (CAC) meetings.”

The task order covers both Morgan and Oconee counties.

Work is to be completed by Oct. 31, 2017.

Bulk Of Order

The scope of services, as spelled out in the task order, is for Parsons Brinckerhoff to determine if the project can stay on the existing alignment and, if not, “determine a new alignment that meets design criteria while avoiding/minimizing impacts.”

The firm is to examine the impact of any new alignment on “environmental resources, community resources, potential hazardous waste sites, and underground storage tanks.”

The firm is to survey state “waters, buffers and species,” aquatics, historical sites and archaeological resources.

It also is to look for underground storage tanks.

KCI Task Order

GDOT provided the copy of the signed task order with Parsons Brinckerhoff to Del Finco, who owns a farm east of Bishop, in response to an open records request Finco filed. Finco shared the response with me.

GDOT has separate contracts with Parsons Brinckerhoff and KCI Technologies Inc. of Maryland for work on the U.S. 441 widening.

Tammy Hall from GDOT told Finco that a second task order with KCI “is in the negotiaton phase and has not been issued.”

Cynthia Burney, a GDOT program manager based in Atlanta, told me in January that KCI also would be asked in the second task order to “validate” the original concept report “by determining if the project can stay on the existing alignment.”

The first task order with Parsons Brinckerhoff was for traffic analysis in Morgan County, while the first task order with KCI was for traffic analysis in Oconee County.

Documents and video from the U.S. 441 widening project are stored on this page of Oconee County Observations.


zippity said...

Not much notice on such an important meeting to those who live in the south part of the county. I am glad Mr. Finco is staying on top of this with the open records requests. If they enlarge the committee, it will be important as to who is put on it. Of course, if they make it large enough, it will accomplish nothing which perhaps is their motive. Those of us impacted by this road need to participate.

Xardox said...

By October of next year?
If it isn't a done deal, I'll eat my hat.