About 90 people turned out on Wednesday night at the Thomas Cotton Gin on Greensboro Highway south of Watkinsville to eat a barbeque dinner and learn about the potential impact of possible routes for a bypass of U.S. 441 around Bishop.
The centerpiece of the evening's presentation was a map produced by the Georgia Department of Transportation showing two different routes for a bypass around the eastern side of Bishop.
Del Finco and Carole Ludwig, representing the citizen group Positively Oconee, argued that the more eastern route would be more disruptive to the physical and social environment of the area than the route closer to downtown Bishop.
Finco and Ludwig own farms that would be crossed by the more eastern route, and the Ludwig farm is protected by a conservation preservation easement held by the Athens Land Trust and purchased with Oconee County and federal funds.
At the end of the meeting, Bruce Anderson Jr., GDOT project manager for the widening of U.S. 441 in Oconee and Morgan counties, including the Bishop bypass, announced an Open House for 5 to 7 p.m. on Oct. 25 at the Community Center in Veterans Park to discuss the project.
Ludwig opened the meeting on Wednesday night at the Cotton Gin by thanking Lisa and Bill Douglas for providing the barbeque dinner. Lisa Douglas has been one of the organizers of Positively Oconee.
|Map Of Two Routes|
Click To Enlarge
Ludwig defined Positively Oconee as “a group of citizens who are concerned about the widening of (U.S.) 441 and Bishop Bypass.”
Ludwig said the group knows that the widening has to take place, but it wants to minimize the damage to the environment and preserve the “rural and agricultural nature of south Oconee County.”
She said the group wants to influence the selection of a route that saves taxpayer money, protects the wildlife, protects the habitat and natural resources and “leaves historical treasures and archaeological sites as undisturbed as possible.”
Accompanying Ludwig’s presentation was a PowerPoint presentation of pictures of birds photographed in the area affected by the widening of U.S. 441.
She was followed by Finco, who walked through a series of comparisons between the two routes for the bypass of Bishop identified in the map provided by the Georgia Department of Transportation.
One of the routes actually passes through the outskirts of Bishop itself.
The other swings east of the city, cutting through farmland along the way.
The first route crosses a tributary to Greenbriar Creek only once, while the more easterly route crosses the creek or its tributary six times. (Finco used different numbers. My count is based on the map itself.)
Finco said the more eastern route would be more expensive, do more damage to farmland, be less advantageous to Bishop, and create archaeological and historic disruption that may be greater than for the more western route.
Three GDOT representatives attended the meeting, including Project Manager Anderson.
On Thursday (Oct. 13), Anderson sent out a notice about the meeting on Oct. 25 at Veterans Park in Oconee County and a companion meeting from 5 to 7 p.m. on Nov. 1 at the Morgan County High School in Madison.
According to that notice, GDOT representatives will attend these meetings “to discuss the project findings to date, establish local priorities, and identify potential resources in the corridor.”
The current schedule calls for construction of the project to begin following bid letting in spring of 2021.
I attended the event but did not record video.
Sarah Bell did make a video recording, and that video is below.
Lighting in the room was low, and road noise interferes with the sound.
OCO: Positively Oconee Meeting 10 12 2016 from Lee Becker on Vimeo.
Thanks so very much, Lee. This is very useful.
This was a very interesting meeting. It was very considerate of the Douglas's to provide dinner and of the owners of the Cotton Gin to make it available. The citizens' route makes so much sense. It accomplishes the goal of the bypass but is close enough to Bishop for commercial activities in Bishop to prosper, while saving most of the farms. It is also far less expensive for us the taxpayers. The eastern route not only goes through the farms, it destroys them by dividing them into sections, separated by the 4 lane road which makes farming them impossible. That route would ruin the agricultural nature of the southern part of the county by encouraging development along it (since farming would not be possible). I hope the GDOT will listen to these citizens. (I personally do not live along either route).
Zippity, I whole heartily agree with you. And some of those farms have been in the families for generations not to mention that some are in the land conservation program. Can GDOT even cross those lands legally once the Conservancy has purchased them for long term protection?
We can only hope GDOT will listen and change their minds.
If you think Boswell will vote or favor the route the citizens choose, you are sorely mistaken. He sees dollar signs in splitting up the farms so they wont be suitable for agriculture use. He will then swoop in like a monkey from wizard of oz and purchase those properties for development.
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