Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Georgia Department of Transportation Asks For Citizen Input On Intersection Improvement At SR 316 And Jimmy Daniell Road

***Dials Mill Intersections Plans Revealed***

The Georgia Department of Transportation on Tuesday announced a virtual presentation and question and answer session for 4 to 6 p.m. on May 26 for the Jimmy Daniell Road and SR 316 Interchange Project.

GDOT also launched a new section on its web site containing information about the planned multi-grade intersection improvement at Jimmy Daniell Road. Construction of the interchange is expected to begin in 2024.

“The purpose of this virtual Public Information Open House is to share project information and offer you an opportunity to provide comments on any aspect of the Georgia DOT project,” according to a video on the site.

Public comment will be accepted until June 10.

Dates for a virtual presentation on the planned flyover of Virgil Langford Road and the multigrade intersection for the Oconee Connector have not been announced, but the project comment period will be June 16 to July 12.

These three projects are the first to be built of the nine planned for SR 316 in Oconee County.

Construction on interchanges at Dials Mill Extension and Dials Mill Road are scheduled for construction in 2025.

GDOT has not released details of its planning for those intersections, but internal documents show that it has approved a design that closes Dials Mill Extension to cross traffic and includes a full interchange at Dials Mill Road.

Dials Mill Plans

The nine intersection improvements planned as part of the GDOT Transformation of SR 316 have generated little public response to date except for those at Dials Mill Road and Dials Mill Extension.

Sharon Thelen, president of the Dials Mill Plantation Property Owners Association, has spoken both before the Oconee County Board of Commissioners and before MACORTS, the regional transportation planning body, raising concerns about the impact of the projects on her subdivision.

Thelen filed an open records request with GDOT on April 7 asking for “Information related to SR 316 Transformation Project” for Dials Mill Extension and Dials Mill Road.

Included was a request for “Preliminary design as of March 2022.”

The documents, which Thelen shared with me, show that GDOT rejected an option of building one interchange between Dials Mill Road and Dials Mill Extension that would have served both roads.

An email thread, which Thelen received, showed that some GDOT engineers asked that the decision on design be postponed until after public comment, but that request was rejected by supervisors on the grounds that they were under pressure to move the project forward quickly.

The email exchange also shows that Jamie Boswell, who represents the 10th Congressional District on the Georgia Transportation Board, was copied on notification of the final decision on the design.

Boswell’s, company, Boswell Properties, is listing nine tracts totaling 92 acres at the intersection of SR 316 and Dials Mill Road. The approved design shows the roadway using one of those tracts and providing ideal access to the majority of the others.

Virtual Public Information Open House

The new GDOT web pages incorporate a video and a number of documents related to the Jimmy Daniell road interchange.

Jimmy Daniell Road Interchange Design
(Click To Enlarge)

“The information published online houses all of the same project information that you would find at an in-person public information open house from proposed design and concept layouts to potential property acquisitions and environmental information such as noise and air impacts,” Natalie Dale, Georgia DOT Spokesperson, says in the video.

The plans show Jimmy Daniell Road crossing over SR 316 via a bridge.

The plans also show two roundabouts on Jimmy Daniell Road as that roadway approaches SR 316.

The roundabouts incorporate the entrance and exit ramps from SR 316.

Citizens can submit comments until June 10 via a virtual form on the web site.

Citizens also can join the virtual meeting by going to the GDOT web page on May 26 to access meeting login credentials. Citizens can submit a comment after that session as well.

Dials Mill Road Correspondence

The correspondence Thelen received on May 11 in response to her Open Records Request show that there was internal pushback at GDOT to moving forward with the Dials Mill Road and Dials Mill Extension designs.

At 3:18 p.m. on Dec. 14, 2021, Albert V. Shelby III, Director of Program Delivery for GDOT, sent out an email to GDOT staff saying “Please continue the design of each of these projects per the laid out interchange and grade separation configurations done by Design Policy & Support.”

That appears to be a reference to the plans for a flyover at Dials Mill Extension and a grade separated interchange at Dials Mill Road.

“We have discussed the approach to these projects with the Chief,” Shelby wrote.

Shelby did not identify the “Chief.”

In the GDOT organizational chart, Shelby reports to Deputy Chief Engineer Marc Mastronardi, who reports to Chief Engineer Meg Perkle.

Perkle reports to Transportation Commissioner Russell McMurry, who reports to the state Transportation Board, on which Boswell sits.

Mastronardi, Pirkle, and McMurry were not copied on Shelby’s Dec. 14 email.

Response Shelby

C. Andy Casey, State Roadway Design Engineer, who was copied on Shelby’s email, responded to Shelby at 10:36 a.m. on Dec. 15.

“I understand your email below,” Casey wrote. “(H)owever, on 0007685/0013763 an alternate was proposed during CR development, with SME input, that is different than what DP&S had originally developed.”

The project numbers are for Dials Mill Extension (0007685) and Dials Mill Road (0013763). CR is Concept Report, and SME is Subject Matter Expert. DP&S is Design Policy and Support.

“We have a completed CR ready for routing,” Casey wrote. “Please see attached for layouts. I just want to ensure we are all on same page with going back to the original conceptual layout.”

“Yes,” Shelby responded at 10:38 a.m. “Go with what the design numbers tell you to do at each location due to proximity, but high level we won’t be doing another analysis of what should be interchanges.”

Andrew Heath, Deputy Chief Engineer, responded at 10:46 am. He had been copied on Shelby’s original email.

“Agreed,” he wrote. “We were hearing that the high level approach for the below projects was being reconsidered again…”

Continuing Discussion

“To clarify the team agreed to conduct public outreach for the entire corridor to ensure citizens and the locals were educated on why certain access points were chosen,” Kimberly W. Nesbitt, State Program Delivery Administrator, wrote at 11:07 a.m.

Approved Alternative Dials Mill Road And Extension
(Click To Enlarge)

“The approach is also to discuss why certain operations were chosen and address concerns on changes in travel patterns as a result of limited access,” Nesbitt continued.

“Office of Roadway is not on hold for proposed design changes and has informed the team they expect to have the already drafted concept report submitted after this process is complete in the spring,” Nesbitt wrote.

“Thanks for the clarification on the outreach Kim,” wrote Health at 11:20 a.m. “However, why are we waiting on submitting the concept reports until after that process? Seems like we can keep marching forward.”

“Because the local have A LOT of concerns here and the district advised that we go to PIOH PRIOR to selecting the preferred alternative,” SueAnne Decker, District Preconstruction Engineer, wrote at 11:21 a.m. PIOH stands for Public Information Open House.

“I talked to Kelvin & Kim,” Shelby responded at 11:41 a.m.

“We’ll do the public outreach on the plan in April 2022 but we CANNOT wait on that to submit concepts and keep moving," Shelby said.

“I’ll remind everyone the Governor announced out timeline, Shelby wrote. He highlighted this line in yellow.

Alternatives Considered

Dane Peters sent out an Approved Concept Report for R. Christopher Rudd, State Design Policy Engineer, on March 21. Boswell was listed on that distribution list.

The document shows a “Preferred Alternative” that includes a full interchange at Dials Mill Road. Dials Mill Road goes over SR 316 via a bridge.

Dials Mill Extension south of SR 316 is closed at SR 316 with traffic directed to Dials Mill Spur, and Dials Mill Extension north of SR 316 ends in a cul-de-sac.

Dials Mill Road after it crosses SR 316 would run along some of the properties listed by Boswell Properties.

Rejected Alternative 1 would have made a full interchange at Dials Mill Extension but only a bridge for Dials Mill Road.

Rejected Alternative 2 and Alternative 3 would have created a full interchange between Dials Mill Road and Dials Mill Extension.

In neither case would Dials Mill Road or Dials Mill Extension have an elevated crossing of SR 316.

Alternates 2 and 3 would provide access to Bogart, as city officials have requested.

County Meetings

Justin Kirouac, Oconee County Administrator, said in an email exchange on Wednesday that he met virtually with GDOT staff on April 26 to review the plans for the Jimmy Daniell Road intersection.

Information Sheet From GDOT
(Click To Enlarge)

“Jody, Guy, and I attended the meeting,” he wrote. “It discussed high level schemes as they’re being shown and potential timelines--the same information they will present in the PIOH.” PIOH is for Public Information Open House.

Jody is Oconee County Public Works Director Jody Woodall.

Guy is Director of Planning and Code Enforcement Guy Herring.

Board of Commissioners Chair John Daniell told me in an email on Wednesday that he did not attend the April 26 meeting but “I did participate in a meeting in August of 2021 to take a big picture look the 3 intersections.”


Daniell sits on the Policy Committee of the Madison Athens Clarke Oconee Regional Transportation Study (MACORTS), which is the federally mandated metropolitan transportation planning body for the area.

Woodall serves on the Technical Coordinating Committee of MACORTS.

MACORTS reviews all road projects involving federal transportation funds.

Both the Technical Coordinating Committee and the Policy Committee earlier this year approved a request from GDOT that MACORTS documents be changed to include federal funding for the Jimmy Daniell Road, Virgil Langford Road, and Oconee Connector intersection improvements.

The documents show that Virgil Langford Road will fly over SR 316 via a bridge, while the other two roads will have full interchanges.

The Technical Coordinating Committee approved the action in March and the Policy Committee approved the action in April.

Both went out for public comment, and final action by the Policy Committee will be taken on June 8. The Technical Coordinating Committee makes recommendations to the Policy Committee.

The current MACORTS Transportation Improvement Program for Fiscal Years 2021 through 2026 does not include any federal funds for either of the Dials Mill Road interchanges.

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