Oconee County is proposing the closing of Cole Spring Road from Snows Mill Road to Hog Mountain Road to address traffic problems, Board of Commissioners Chair John Daniell told the Land Use and Transportation Planning Committee last week.
Daniell also said he can “envision” three roundabouts on Hog Mountain Road, one at Clotfelter Road, one at the entrance to North Oconee High School, and one at the Snows Mill Road and Rocky Branch Road intersection.
Daniell was chairing the final session of the Land Use and Transportation Planning Committee, which has been dissolved in favor of a Transportation Task Force with the limited assignment of reviewing the Oconee County Long Range Transportation Plan.
Daniell also discussed another transportation plan, by MACORTS, the metropolitan planning authority for Oconee County and its neighbors, which proposes bike and pedestrian lanes being added to Daniells Bridge Road and Hog Mountain Road from Butler’s Crossing to U.S. 441.
Bikers and pedestrians could share a single, widened path or lane on the same side of the road, separated from traffic, or could be on separate dedicated paths or sidewalks on the opposite sides of the traffic, Committee members were told.
MACORTS held public hearings on that plan last week in Oconee County, Athens-Clarke County, and Madison County, which make up the active members of the organization.
Nineteen people attended the MACORTS meeting at Oconee Veterans Park in Oconee County, while only two attended the meeting in Athens-Clarke County and only one person attended the meeting in Madison County, according to Sherry F. McDuffie, MACORTS planner.
Future Of Committee
Committee Chair Maria Caudill turned the Land Use And Transportation Planning Committee meeting, held on Sept. 10 at the Community Center in Oconee Veterans Park, over to Daniells after she called the seven members attending to order.
Daniell told the group that the Board of Commissioners had dissolved the Committee, officially by a vote on July 2.
Six of the 12 members of the Committee will serve on a Task Force to study the 282-page Oconee County Long Range Transportation Plan produced by the Georgia Department of Transportation for the county.
The assignment to the Task Force, Daniell said, is “to go through that study, and tell us what you think about it.”
Daniell has said that Task Forces appointed by the Board of Commissioners will be given specific assignments and, once those are completed, will be disbanded.
The continuing members of the Task Force, Daniell said, are: Rolland Ebright Jr., John Chenhall, Rick Garrett, Bryon McCarley, Kirk McClellan, and Kirk Shook.
Ebright, Chenhall, Garret and McClellan were in attendance, as were Bill Tollner and Tommy Malcom, who, along with Caudill, will not continue to the Task Force.
Cole Spring Road
Daniell said he also would like to get reactions from the Committee to the proposal to close Cole Spring Road from Snows Mill Road to Hog Mountain Road. Traffic now using Cole Spring Road to access Hog Mountain Road would use Snows Mill Road instead.
Cole Spring Road intersects Hog Mountain Road at a “lopsided angle” opposite Clotfelter Road, Daniell said.
The intersection is “skewed,” Daniell said, and “you can’t tell what the person opposite you is going to do.”
Numerous accidents have occurred at the intersection, according to Daniell.
“We are working with DOT to figure out a long-term solution, but in the interim process we’re kicking around closing that section of Cole Springs Road,” Daniell said.
DOT stands for Georgia Department of Transportation. Hog Mountain Road as it runs through most of the county is a state route.
Committee Member Garrett said that the intersection of Snows Mill Road with Hog Mountain Road and Rocky Branch Road also is “not a great intersection.”
Daniell said some improvements had been made to that intersection and it is better than Cole Spring Road, Clotfelter Road and Hog Mountain Road.
Daniell said it is possible there will be three roundabouts on Hog Mountain Road in that area, which is traveled heavily because of Rocky Branch Elementary School and North Oconee High School on the north side of Hog Mountain Road.
|Caudill And Daniell 9/10/2019|
“I can envision seeing a roundabout at Clotfelter, in front of the High School, and then at Snows Mill/Rocky Branch intersection,” Daniell said. “You slow all of your traffic down to go by the school. Also, you know, we’re putting a couple of deputies out there.”
“Have you brought this before the BOE?” Committee Chair Caudill asked, referring to the county Board of Education.
“No,” Daniell said. “That’s just a vision.”
“I hope the vision gets to the BOE,” Caudill responded.
“We do a lot of communicating with the Board,” Daniell said. “There a difference between communicating and not liking the message.”
Malcom Bridge Roundabouts
The county has its first roundabout under construction at Malcom Bridge Road and Mars Hill Road, and two other roundabouts at entrances to Malcom Bridge Middle School are in the design stage.
The Board of Education refused to grant the rights of way for those two roundabouts, and the county has had to redesign them as a result.
“If you’re referring back to Malcom Bridge Road,” Daniell said to Caudill, “that was clearly communicated well in advance. It’s unfortunate they didn’t, they don’t, like the idea. But it was not for lack of communication.”
“Always communicate with them. I’m asking,” Caudill said.
“Like I’m saying, there was no lack of communication,” Daniell said. “Not then, and not right now.”
“As of today, it’s going out to the public,” Caudill said. “Just make sure it gets to the BOE.”
The draft of the MACORTS 2045 Metropolitan Transportation Plan includes 13 road projects in Oconee County on the prioritized project list.
Included are widening of Daniells Bridge Road and of Hog Mountain Road from Butler’s Crossing to U.S. 441. At that point, Hog Mountain Road is a county road, not a state road.
|Daniell and Woodall 9/10/19|
“They had several roads down for widening,” Daniell said of the earlier MACORTS Plan.
“Widening to the DOT is four lanes. One of those was Daniells Bridge Road and also Hog Mountain Road from Butler’s Crossing down to the RaceTrac.”
“Our idea of widening is 12-foot lanes with a sidewalk and a bike path,” Daniell said. “So Daniells Bridge Road is on the list. And also Hog Mountain Road.”
With the completion of Phase III of the Mars Hill Road/Experiment Station Road widening into Watkinsville, bike lanes will extend from Watkinsville to the commercial center at the Oconee Connector and Epps Bridge Parkway, Daniell said.
“You can get on your bike in downtown Watkinsville, ride your bike and watch a movie, and then ride your bike all the way back and stay in the bike lane,” Daniell said.
Adding the bike lanes on Hog Mountain Road and Daniells Bridge is “going to be a huge improvement for the pedestrian and bike,” he said.
Alternate Designs, Rails To Trails
Daniell said that the extension of Bishop Farms Parkway from Experiment Station Road to New High Shoals Road will include a multi-use sidewalk on one side that will be used both by bikers and by pedestrians.
Jody Woodall, director of the Public Works Department, said the county also is considering building sidewalks on both sides of Daniells Bridge Road and Hog Mountain Road, with one side being dedicated for pedestrian use and the other for bicycles.
“I don’t know that we need more four-lane,” Daniell said. “Once Mars Hill is done, it’s just making sure that the road is wide enough to handle the traffic...We’ll try to get sidewalks where it makes sense to have them.”
Daniell said discussions continue on conversion of the rail line running from Athens to Madison through Watkinsville, Bishop and Farmington.
“I don’t know that I was a big proponent of rails to trails when I first heard of it,” Daniell said. “But when you go and look at what the draw that that brings in...”
“I don’t want to discount some of the stuff that’s in the works that might make rails to trails more a reality than I can comment on right now,” he said.
I asked Daniell to elaborate after the meeting, and he said he could not say more.
Why End Committee?
While Committee members said little when Daniell announced the termination of the Committee, Tollner asked for explanation later in the meeting.
Daniell said that when he looked over the last two years he found that the Committee was meeting only ever other month and “half of the meetings were getting cancelled.”
“I’ve been approached by several on the Committee saying, or a few, saying what are we supposed to be doing?” Daniell continued.
“I was one of them,” Tollner said.
“So I don’t know if I have a clear answer for that,” Daniell said. “Instead of having you all come and show up and look for something to do...”
Daniell said the goal now is to get feedback from the Task Force on the plans submitted to the county by the Georgia Department of Transportation.
“That’s kind of where we’re at,” he concluded.
Daniell told the Committee that the Georgia Department of Transportation has awarded a contract for engineering of the flyover of the Oconee Connector of SR 316 and construction is scheduled for 2024.
Because the state already has the right of way, the project might be moved forward, he said.
Phase 2 of Mars Hill widening (actually of Experiment Station Road from Hog Mountain Road to the U.S. 441 bypass) now has a let date of January of 2021, a year ahead of schedule, Daniell said.
Work on the intersection of Rocky Branch Road, Virgil Langford Road and Mars Hill Road is expected to be completed by the end of November, Daniell said.
Daniell said he has no news on the widening of U.S. 441 from Watkinsville to Madison and on the Bishop bypass.
The county also is drafting a request for proposals for building a broadband loop to stimulate private companies to build off the loop to provide services to customers in areas not now served in the county, Daniell said.
He said he hoped the request would be ready by the end of the month.
The video below is of the entire Sept. 10 meeting of the Land Use and Transportation Planning Committee.
The discussion jumped around quite a bit, so it is hard to annotate the video.
Discussion of the Cole Spring Road closing and the subsequent discussion of communication with the Board of Education begins at 2:58 in the video.
Discussion of the bike lanes and sidewalks begins with a question by Committee Member Tollner at 14:04 in the video.
This evolves into a discussion of the MACORTS plans for Daniells Bridge Road and Hog Mountain Road.
Discussion of rails to trails begins with a question by Committee Member Malcom at 31:50 in the video.
I have added a short video clip from the MACORTS session on Sept. 9 at Oconee Veterans Park below the video of the Land Use and Transportation Planning committee meeting from Sept. 10.
That session included no formal presentation. Britton Glenn assisted me with the recording of the entire session so I could attend the Board of Education meeting that same night.
In the video, McDuffie is answering questions about the display of projects on the MACORTS plan.