The Policy Committee of the Madison Athens Clarke Oconee Regional Transportation Study (MACORTS) last week removed the proposed flyover connecting Daniells Bridge Road with the Oconee Connector from its 2040 Long Range Transportation Plan.
The Policy Committee also added five projects to its 2040 Long Range Transportation Plan to accommodate the Construction Work Program of the Georgia Department of Transportation.
Before removing the Daniells Bridge Road Extension and flyover of SR Loop 10 from the 2040 planning document, the Policy Committee listened to a 16-minute plea from Thomas and Sandra Kittle, who own just less 20 acres of land that would be crossed by the proposed roadway.
The Kittles are in favor of the project, proposed 20 years ago, saying it is needed to move traffic from the congested Epps Bridge Parkway commercial area.
The Kittles got a sympathetic response from the Policy Committee, but the vote to remove the project was unanimous.
Technical Committee Recommendation
The MACORTS Technical Coordinating Committee had voted on July 26 to recommend to the Policy Committee that it make the changes in the 2040 Long Range Transportation Plan as well as related changes to the 2018-2021 Transportation Improvement Program.
The Policy Committee approved the changes to the 2018-2021 Transportation Improvement Program at the meeting on Aug. 9 along with the changes to the 2040 transportation plan.
MACORTS is a federally mandated metropolitan planning organizations that must approve transportation projects in the urbanized part of the participating counties if those projects are to include federal funds.
Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chairman John Daniell chaired the meeting last week. Flynn Warren is the Oconee County citizen representative on the Policy Committee.
MACORTS had held three public hearings and accepted public comment on its plans up to the end of the day on July 25.
At the July 26 meeting, Sherry McDuffie, MACORTS transportation planner, said she had received comments from 37 individuals on the proposed changes.
Most of those comments dealt with the Daniells Bridge Road flyover, and none of them was in support of the project.
Sandra Kittle used the Public Comment section of the Aug. 9 meeting to speak for herself and her husband. The couple lives at 2030 Daniells Bridge Road.
Sandra Kittle presented a series of maps to show changes in the road system in the area over the years and the route of the proposed flyover.
She said the current road system is not functioning.
“We have people coming in here to shop,” she said, pointing to the Oconee Connector. “They’re coming down to Home Depot to buy gas. A service station has even been put in here,” she said, pointing to the area in front of Home Depot.
“ And there is no outlet except to go back to the red light here at Lowe’s,” Kittle added.
She said the flyover would relieve the traffic by bringing it to Daniells Bridge Road.
Project Can Reappear
Planner McDuffie said after the Kittles spoke that the decision by the Policy Committee would not eliminate the project entirely but would put it into the unfunded category.
If GDOT wanted to fund the project in the future, the two Committees would have to add it to the then operative Long Range Transportation Plan and to the appropriate Transportation Improvement Program.
MACORTS would have to hold hearings on those changes as well.
Oconee BOC Chair John Daniell told the Kittles he thinks the project will be completed at some point in the future.
“I think you’ll see this item pop back up with fairly high priority,” he said. “It’s not a dead issue.”
Reason For Changes
The changes to the Long Range Transportation Plan were necessitated by a request from GDOT that five projects be included in the 2018-2021 Transportation Improvement Program.
The projects GDOT wanted included in the 2018-2021 Transportation Improvement Program are in the GDOT Construction Work Program, reflecting the organization’s budget for road projects.
Projects cannot be in the Transportation Improvement Program unless they are in the Long Range Transportation Plan, and the Long Range Transportation Plan has to be balanced.
The latter requirement is what led to the decision to eliminate the Daniells Bridge Road Extension and flyover from the Long Range Transportation Plan.
The extension of Daniells Bridge Road would connect the existing Daniells Bridge Road with the stub of the Oconee Connector at Home Depot.
Three of the projects added to the two MACORTS documents are in Oconee County.
Included is a grade separated interchange at SR 316 and Dials Mill Extension in the far west of the county and unspecified improvements to the interchange at SR 316 and SR Loop 10.
The plans call for a replacement bridge on Clotfelter Road over Barber Creek in the western part of Oconee County.
The other two projects are in Athens-Clarke County.
These are inclusion of the construction phase of the replacement bridge of the SR Loop 10 Bridge at the Middle Oconee River and a replacement bridge on Belmont Road over Shoal Creek.
The Policy Committee meeting took place in the auditorium of the Athens-Clarke County Planning Department on Dougherty Street in Athens.
MACORTS Planner McDuffie presented the summary of the changes to the 2040 Long Range Transportation Plan and the 2018-2021 Transportation Improvement Program.
Public Comment began at 0:34 in the video, with the Kittles being the only citizens to speak.
Penny Mills recorded the video.