Thursday, August 22, 2019

Oconee County Citizens To Get Opportunity To Comment On 2045 Metropolitan Transportation Plan

***Includes 13 Projects In County***

MACORTS, the metropolitan planning authority for Oconee County and its neighbors, is asking the public to comment on the 2045 draft of its Metropolitan Transportation Plan that includes 13 road projects in Oconee County on the prioritized project list.

Included is a last-minute update to the plan for widening Hog Mountain Road from Butler’s Crossing to U.S. 441. The update calls for a two-lane rather than four-lane road that also will include turn lanes, sidewalks and bike lanes.

MACORTS staff will hold a public meeting from 5 to 7 p.m. on Sept. 9 at Oconee Veterans Park, 3500 Hog Mountain Road, west of Butler’s Crossing, to give citizens a chance to comment on the 2045 Metropolitan Transportation Plan draft.

Meetings also are scheduled on Sept. 10 for Athens-Clarke County and for Madison County.

The top Oconee County project on the list is the Clotfelter Road Bridge over Barber Creek in the northwest of the county, but the list does not include projects already in line for Georgia Department of Transportation funding, including SR 316 interchanges and the widening of Experiment Station Road from Butler’s Crossing to the U.S. 441 Bypass.

Technical Coordinating Committee

The 2045 draft of the Metropolitan Transportation Plan was before the Technical Coordinating Committee of MACORTS last month, where it won approval.

Griffin And Davis 7 24 2019

It subsequently was approved Aug. 14 by the MACORTS Policy Committee.

The draft is scheduled for adoption in October, but, before that can happen, it has to be put before the public.

In addition to the hearings, MACORTS is accepting comments via the web. It is necessary to scroll down to find the comments for the 2045 Metropolitan Transportation Plan.

MACORTS (Madison Athens Clarke Oconee Regional Transportation Study) is one of 16 federally mandated metropolitan planning organizations in Georgia.

As such, it is the conduit through which federal transportation funds come to the urbanized area, which includes the northern part of Oconee County.

Last Minute Adjustment

At the Technical Coordinating Committee meeting on July 24, Beverly Davis, senior Planning Group Leader from RS&H, told the group that she had gotten feedback from Oconee County officials regarding the Hog Mountain Road project and was modifying the document accordingly.

RS&H is a national architecture, engineering and consulting firm with offices in Atlanta and has taken responsibility for creation of the 2045 update to the Metropolitan Transportation Plan, previously referred to as the Long-Range Transportation Plan.

The original proposal was to widen the 2.1 mile stretch of Hog Mountain Road from Mars Hill Road/Experiment Station Road to U.S. 441 to four lanes with turn lanes at an estimated cost of $31.8 million.

The current plan is to widen the road to two 12-foot lanes with turn lanes, sidewalks, and a bike lane at an estimated cost of $9.3 million.

With that change in costs, Davis said, another Oconee County project, a frontage road on SR 316 from Mars Hill Road to Dials Mill Road, could be moved from the unfunded list to the funded list.

Long Range

The plan is a long range one, and that is clear from the time line for the various projects on the list.

Hog Mountain Road Project Location

The Hog Mountain Road widening, listed as a Band 1 project, would be eligible for engineering and right of way funding between 2019 and 2025.

At the Town Hall Meeting on Aug. 1, Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chair John Daniell said the county was hoping to move forward with the project and mentioned the possibility of getting state and federal funding.

The MACORTS approval is a necessary step in getting that federal funding.

MACORTS approval cannot be granted without the public comment.

The Public Comment period is from Aug.19 - Sept. 17.

Project List

The Clotfelter Road bridge over Barber Creek project is expected to cost $1.7 million. The existing bridge will be replaced with a new one.

The second Oconee County project on the list is the coordination of a traffic signal on Epps Bridge Parkway at Parkway Boulevard with two others in Athens-Clarke County.

The third Oconee County project on the list is improvement to and reconstruction of the bridge over the Middle Oconee River at Simonton Bridge Road.

The fourth project is the Hog Mountain Road widening, and the fifth is the widening of Daniells Bridge Road from Mars Hill Road to Hog Mountain Road to include turn lanes and bicycle and pedestrian facilities.

The sixth Oconee County project is improvements to the intersection of Hog Mountain Road and Ray’s Church Road and Malcom Bridge Road.

Projects Underway

The seventh Oconee County item on the list is Phase III of the widening of Mars Hill Road/Experiment Station Road from SR 316 to SR 15 in downtown Watkinsville.

The remaining projects involve signal upgrades, intersection improvements and construction of SR 316 frontage roads.

At the Technical Coordinating Committee meeting on July 24, Jody Woodall, Oconee County Public Works director, said that the Phase II widening of Experiment Station Road from Butler's Crossing to the U.S. 441 Bypass “has come off the shelf” and should now be moving forward.

The county has purchased right of way for the project, but funding has been dormant since that was completed.

The Georgia Department of Transportation web site lists $4.3 million in engineering in 2019 for construction of a multi-grade intersection for SR 316 and the Oconee Connector.

The site lists $42.2 million in funding for construction in 2025.


I was not able to attend either the Policy Committee meeting on Aug. 14 or the Technical Coordinating Committee meeting on July 24.

The Policy Committee meeting was held at Madison County Government Building in Danielsville.

Sherry F. McDuffie, a MACORTS Planner, told me that the Policy Committee approved the draft 2045 Metropolitan Transportation Plan without discussion.

Sarah Bell did attend the July 24 meeting of the Technical Coordinating Committee, held at the Athens-Clarke County Planning Department offices.

Bell made the video below of that meeting, which was chaired by Brad Griffin, an Athens-Clarke County planner.

Davis began speaking at 8:08 in the video about the 2045 Metropolitan Transportation Plan.

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