The University of Georgia Athletic Department has told the state Department of Transportation that it has “serious concerns” about the proposal to build a truck bypass of U.S. 441 on the eastern side of Bishop bordering on the university’s equestrian facility on Astondale Road.
Athletic Director Greg McGarity acknowledged the “commitment from GDOT to mitigate the noise associated with the construction of the bypass as well as the actual traffic associated with the completed bypass.”
“Our serious concerns remain regarding the current plan--the uncertainty that this presents to the safety and overall operation of our Women's Equestrian program,” McGarity said in a letter he sent to Jamie Boswell, who represents the 10th Congressional District on and is chairman of the State Transportation Board.
McGarity said construction of the bypass as proposed could force the Athletic Department to relocate its equestrian facility.
The Department of Transportation and its consultants released preliminary details of its plan for a truck bypass of Bishop at the Bishop City Council meeting on Monday night and are scheduled to release more complete information at a meeting scheduled for 5 to 6:30 p.m. on Monday at Oconee Veterans Park on Hog Mountain Road.
The meeting on Monday will be the second with the Oconee County Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC) for the US 441 Improvements.
|Proposed Truck Bypass Would Take Some Land|
At the meeting with the Bishop City Council, Albert V. Shelby III, state program delivery engineer, refused to release maps or specific details of the proposal, saying they would be released first to the Citizen Advisory Committee on Monday night.
GDOT consultants did project a map on the screen in the room that showed the truck bypass leaving the existing U.S. 441 on the south side of Bishop at Astondale Road.
From that point, the bypass would follow Astondale Road to the east of Bishop before turning north and running on the western edge of the University of Georgia equestrian facility.
The bypass then would cross Old Bishop Road and turn west to intersect with the existing U.S. 441 at High Shoals Road.
Two Lanes Shown
The projected map showed the bypass as a two-lane road, but Shelby said the decision on the number of lanes would be based on further study of traffic.
In the presentation, the transportation officials said the truck bypass would take some land from the University of Georgia equestrian facility and pass very close to two houses on Old Bishop Road, possibly necessitating the purchase of those two properties.
The map showed an earthen berm separating the highway from the equestrian facility and other noise-abatement walls along the truck route.
The proposal is for roundabouts at either end of the truck route where it meets U.S. 441.
McGarity began his letter to Boswell by thanking GDOT for allowing the university to review the plans for the roadway.
The 14-member State Transportation Board has general control over and provides supervision of the Department of Transportation.
McGarity’s letter is not dated, but J. Griffin Doyle, vice president for Government Relations at the university, who provided the letter to me, said it was written on Feb. 15.
“The current path is identical to the path we reviewed in September 2017, and nearly identical to the original one we first saw in July 2017,” McGarity wrote.
“Our primary concern is the uncertainty of the noise and its impact on the safe operation of our program,” McGarity wrote. “We understand that GDOT is considering making US441 a four-lane road throughout Georgia.
“If the proposed widening were to include the bypass, needless to say, it would significantly increase our concerns about noise and safety,” McGarity wrote.
The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia purchased the 65.6 acres for the equestrian facility in 2009, according to county tax records. The property is valued at $876,438.
Prior to 2009, the equestrian facility was at the intersection of South Milledge Avenue and Whitehall Road in Athens-Clarke County.
“The decision to relocate the facility to its current location in Bishop was based primarily on increased noise in the area due to increased traffic,” McGarity told Boswell.
“The move was costly, and the Athletic Association invested significant resources in the move in order to ensure the safe operation of the program.
“We now fear we could be in the same position we were back in 2009--being forced to find a new location for our student-athletes to train and compete, causing tremendous expense and disruption for our program,” McGarity wrote.