MACORTS, the regional transportation planning organization, has begun accepting public feedback on changes to its planning documents, including the removal of the controversial Daniells Bridge Road Extension and SR Loop 10 flyover from its long range plans.
The first of three public meetings on the proposed changes in the planning documents will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. on June 26 at the Community Center in Oconee Veterans Park, 3500 Hog Mountain Road.
At the request of the Georgia Department of Transportation, MACORTS is seeking to add $19.2 million to its 2040 Long Range Transportation Plan to cover a range of projects, including several in Oconee County.
Elimination of the Daniells Bridge Road project is to accommodate that request.
Final action on the changes, following the public input, is scheduled to take place on Aug. 9.
The MACORTS Policy Committee approved unanimously the draft changes to both its Transportation Improvement Program for 2018-2021 and its 2040 Long Range Transportation Plan at its meeting on Wednesday morning.
The Policy Committee also agreed on the schedule and procedures for public comment before final action can be taken.
Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chairman John Daniell and citizen Flynn Warren represent the county on the eight-member Policy Committee.
The MACORTS Technical Coordinating Committee approved the same changes at its meeting on May 24.
MACORTS is the federally required Metropolitan Planning Organization for the urbanized area that includes Athens-Clarke County, the northern part of Oconee County, and parts of Madison, Jackson and Oglethorpe counties.
Six Proposed Changes
The proposal tentatively approved by the two MACORTS committees and now open for citizen comment is for six substantive changes to the Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) and the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP).
|Document For Citizen Comment|
The first is the elimination of the $8.5 million in preliminary funding for the Daniells Bridge Road Extension Project from the Long Range Plan to free up funds to add the $19.2 million in projects requested by GDOT to the LRTP and the TIP.
The current balance in the 2040 LRTP is $11.1 million, so the addition of $8.5 million will cover the $19.2 million requested by GDOT with just less than $0.5 million remaining unallocated.
The second change is the addition of a new project to both the LRTP and the TIP for an interchange at SR 316 and Dials Mill Extension in the far west of the county.
The third change would add a new project to both the LRTP and the TIP for improvements to the interchange at SR 316 and SR Loop 10.
All of these projects are in Oconee County.
Middle Oconee River Bridge
The fourth and fifth projects are in Athens-Clarke County.
The fourth change, also to the LRTP and the TIP, would add the construction phase of the replacement bridge of the SR Loop 10 Bridge at the Middle Oconee River.
The fifth change would be a new addition to the LRTP and the TIP for a replacement bridge on Belmont Road over Shoal Creek.
The sixth project is a new addition to both the LRTP and the TIP for a replacement bridge on Clotfelter Road over Barber Creek in the western part of Oconee County.
Construction Work Program
Sherry McDuffie, transportation planner with MACORTS and Athens-Clarke County, told the Policy Committee at the meeting on Wednesday that the requested changes by GDOT were something of a surprise.
“The projects that have been programmed in GDOT’s Construction Work Program, to be included in an update to TIP, look very different than we initially expected,” McDuffie said.
GDOT’s Construction Work Program reflects the state budget for road projects.
“They requested that several projects be added to the TIP that are not currently in the Long-Range Plan,” McDuffie said. “As you remember, if a project is to be in the TIP, to be funded, it has to be in our Long-Range Plan first.”
The Long Range plan also has to be balanced, and the elimination of funding for the Daniells Bridge Road Extension accomplished that.
Daniells Bridge Road
The proposed Daniells Bridge Road Extension would run from just north of the intersection of Chestnut Hill Road with Daniells Bridge Road and cross SR Loop 10 to connect with the stub of the Oconee Connector at Home Depot.
The project has met resistance from many residents in the neighborhoods off Daniells Bridge Road, including in Welbrook Farms subdivision, where I live.
Some residents and businesses also have supported the project.
The removal of the project from the Long Range Transportation Plan would not mean that the project is dead.
Could Come Back
MACORTS could add the Daniells Bridge Road Extension project back to its documents at any time, but that would require action of the Technical Coordinating Committee and Policy Committee and citizen feedback.
It also is possible that the state could fund the project without using federal funds, meaning that it would not have to be in any MACORTS planning document.
So far, both of Oconee County’s representatives on the MACORTS Technical Coordinating Committee and both of its representatives on the Policy Committee, including BOC Chair Daniell, have voted to remove the project from the 2040 Long Range Transportation Plan.
Following the public comment, those two committees and those four individuals will be asked to vote once again to finalize the action.
In addition to the six major changes to the MACORTS documents noted above, a series of what McDuffie called “technical” changes are to be made to the FY 2018 to FY 2021 Transportation Improvement Plan.
Construction for the SR 316 and Oconee Connector interchange is to be changed to 2023 from “long range.”
The changes add $2.5 million in preliminary funding for the Dials Mill Extension interchange.
The construction and utility costs for the SR 10 Loop at Atlanta Highway project interchange increases from about $25 million up to $28.2 million.
Right of way acquisition for the Clotfelter Road improvements is moved to year 2020.
Jimmy Daniell Road
The technical changes to the TIP increase construction funding for the Jimmy Daniell Road widening from $17.8 to $20.9 million and increase utility costs by $4.2 million.
At the Technical Coordinating Committee meeting last month, the documents showed the widening of the road to four lanes running from the Atlanta Highway to Mars Hill Road.
Krystal Harris, a GDOT planner representing that organization at the Policy Committee meeting on Wednesday morning, said the terminus should be SR 316.
The TIP submitted for citizen comment reflects that SR 316 project end point.
The meeting at the Community Center in Veterans Park on June 26 will use a drop-in format where citizens can review the MACORTS documents, ask questions, and register their reactions.
The Athens-Clarke County meeting will be from 4 to 6 p.m. on June 28 at 120 W. Dougherty Street in Athens, and the Madison County meeting will be from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. on June 27 at 91 Albany Avenue in Daniellsville.
The same documents will be available at all three meetings.
Citizens also can send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or make them at the MACORTS web site.
The video below is of the meeting of the MACORTS Policy Committee on June 14.
Athens-Clarke County Mayor Nancy Denson presided.
McDuffie presented the proposed changes in the documents to the Committee.