The first of two informational meetings related to the launch of a study of a truck bypass south of Watkinsville will take place virtually on Monday evening, followed by an in-person meeting at Oconee Veterans Park on Thursday.
The virtual meeting will be from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Monday via Webex.
The in-person meeting will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. on Thursday in the Community Center at Oconee Veterans Park, 3500 Hog Mountain Road, west of Butler’s Crossing.
No routes have been selected for a link between SR 15 and U.S. 441, though Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chair John Daniell has said that a route close to Watkinsville will be considered as well as others further south in the county.
In the past, Astondale Road has been discussed as the likely route for a truck bypass. That road connects SR 15 and U.S. 441 on the south side of Bishop.
The focus of the meetings is an addition of a single page in each of two planning documents.
The federally-mandated metropolitan planning body MACORTS must modify these documents before the Georgia Department of Transportation can use federal highway funds for a “scoping study” of routes for the bypass.
What Is Requested Of Citizens
Citizens are being asked to complete a comment sheet that technically only relates to the decision of MACORTS (the Madison Athens-Clarke Oconee Regional Transportation Study) to modify its Transportation Improvement Program and its Metropolitan Transportation Plan.
|Transportation Improvement Program|
Sheet To Be Added
(Click To Enlarge)
At present, neither document includes the scoping study that will launch consideration of the bypass proposed to divert truck traffic now going through the center of Watkinsville.
Neither the MACORTS Technical Coordinating Committee nor the MACORTS Policy Committee at present has taken a position on inclusion of the scoping study. These groups only have voted to seek public comment.
The comment sheet citizens can complete does not restrict what respondents say, and it is likely some will comment on routes.
The form is available online. (Move the curser over the fourth line under Documentation For Amendments to download the form.)
The sheets in the two reports that must be modified also are on that page.
The documents for the two plans allocate $500,000 for the scoping study, with $400,000 of that coming from the federal government and $100,000 of it from the state.
At present, MACORTS has $1,163,457 in unallocated federal funds, and the $400,000 for the scoping study will come from that amount.
Other Ways To Comment
Citizens who wish to hear a live presentation of the documents can join the Webex session from 5:30 to 6:30 on Monday.
The link for the meeting is:
Meeting ID: 180 747 4786 Password: **
Those planning to attend the virtual meeting must email Sherry McDuffie at firstname.lastname@example.org to receive the password for the meeting.
This is necessary to keep a count of how many seats are needed in the virtual meeting space, McDuffie has said.
The public information meeting from 5 to 7 p.m. on Thursday at Oconee Veterans Park will be drop-in with no formal presentation.
Staff will be available to provide information and answer questions about the changes in the MACORTS documents.
Public comment will be accepted from Sept. 20 to October 4 and can be emailed to MACORTS staff at email@example.com.
Origins Of Request
MACORTS is responding to a request from the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) that the documents be modified to initiate the scoping study.
The request came as a surprise to MACORTS staff, and the GDOT representative on the MACORTS committees did not have an explanation for why the request has come forward at this time.
Marcus Wiedower, who represents Watkinsville and the area of the county that would be affected by the bypass, has refused to respond to a request for information about the role he has played.
Watkinsville Mayor Brian Brodrick has said that he has been advocating for the truck bypass, including with local elected officials.
“It is absolutely critical for the health of Watkinsville that we reduce the number of trucks and through traffic from south Georgia through our community," Brodrick said after the meeting of the Policy Committee calling for the public hearing.
Brodrick noted that the 2020 Census showed Watkinsville grew by only 64 residents from 2010 to 2020. That's a growth rate of 2.3 percent.
|Census Data 2010 And 2020|
The unincorporated parts of the county, by contrast, grew by 30.7 percent in the last 10 years.
Watkinsville’s population now stands at 2,896, or 6.9 percent of the county’s 41,799 residents. It was 8.6 percent of the county’s 32,808 in 2010.
Brodrick said to accommodate future growth the city needs to reduce traffic, and particularly truck traffic, using Main Street.
SR 15 and U.S. 441 come together in Watkinsville, but they are about eight miles distant in the far south of the county and 4.5 miles apart along Astondale Road at Bishop.
Daniell has said that GDOT will consider a route north of Flat Rock Road that could cross the southern boundary of the city. The two roads are about 1.5 miles apart at the city’s southern edge.