The Oconee Connector and Virgil Langford Road intersections with SR 316, as well as SR 316 itself, will remain open to traffic during reconstruction of the two intersections, scheduled to take place from 2024 to 2027, with one exception.
Eastbound traffic on SR 316 trying to exit onto the Oconee Connector most likely will be required to detour around the intersection for 45 days at some point after reconstruction of that intersection gets underway.
The detour will route eastbound traffic along Jimmy Daniell Road to Virgil Langford Road, where it will be diverted either north or south.
The southbound traffic will travel Virgil Langford Road to Mars Hill Road. Traffic will follow Mars Hill Road and meet the Oconee Connector opposite Daniells Bridge Road.
The northbound traffic will use a new bridge that will carry Virgil Langford Road across SR 316. The detour will not be implemented until that bridge is completed.
Discussion of the detour was the most prominent feature of a virtual question and answer session held by the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) from 4 to 6 p.m. on Wednesday.
GDOT officials also confirmed that the median break on the Oconee Connector between SR 316 and Daniells Bridge Road will remain as it is today after the new interchange is built.
The requested access to property west of that existing median break for a new Publix is not included in the plans, the GDOT experts said.
The Virtual Presentation and Q and A Session on Wednesday was part of a Virtual Public Information Open House being hosted by GDOT to gain public comment on the redesign of the SR 316 interchanges with Virgil Langford Road and the Oconee Connector.
|Detour Map (Click To Enlarge)|
The Wednesday session was a sequel to one held on May 26 for the Jimmy Daniell Road interchange.
Those three interchanges are part of a “bundle” that will be built from 2024 to 2027.
Kyle Collins, Communications and Marketing Strategist for GDOT, said it is expected the “same development team will be executing all of these.”
Collins served as moderator for the Wednesday virtual session.
The Jimmy Daniell Road interchange will include exit and entrance ramps.
Virgil Langford Road will be carried over SR 316 via a bridge, but there will not be any exit and entrance ramps. At present, Virgil Langford Road intersects with SR 316, but traffic is not allowed to cross SR 316.
The interchange of SR 316 with the Oconee Connector will be a modified cloverleaf design that will allow both eastbound and westbound traffic to exit and enter SR 316 at the Connector.
Format Of Session
As had been the case at the May 26 session on Jimmy Daniell Road, Moderator Collins welcomed those joining online and then launched a 12 -minute pre-recorded video featuring Iheanachor Njoku, Office of Alternative Delivery Project Manager at GDOT.
|Njoku And Schedule|
Collins followed the presentation by Njoku with a project visualization video, which offers a three-dimensional, aerial perspective.
The visualization is currently available on the GDOT web site for the two projects.
Njoku’s pre-recorded video will be part of the full video of the Wednesday session, which will be uploaded as well by no later than June 27, Collins said.
After playing the two videos, Collins took 33 questions, calling on Njoku and other members of an expert panel to provide responses.
The plans for the two projects had been uploaded on the GDOT web site June 15.
Need For Project
Njoku told the audience what most almost certainly knew: the two intersections are heavily used and dangerous.
Virgil Langford serves 5,400 vehicles per day, Njoku said, and from 2016 to 2020, there were “a total of 191 crashes in the vicinity of the project intersection.”
The Oconee Connector serves 26,500 vehicles daily, he said, and from 2016 to 2020, there were 269 crashes “occurring in the vicinity of the existing intersection.”
Cross traffic on Virgil Langford Road now is blocked, and Njoku said the bridge for Virgil Langford Road “will greatly improve connectivity to the medical businesses on the northern side of Virgil Langford Road.”
It also will improve response times from the county’s fire station on Virgil Langford Road, he said.
GDOT grades intersections from A to F based on level of service, and, at present, the SR 316 and Oconee Connector intersection has a grade of E in both the morning and evening peak periods, according to the video.
Traffic “is expected to worsen in future years,” Njoku said.
With the new intersections, GDOT expects both intersections to have level of service rated as B, Njoku said in the video.
The first questioner wanted to know how long the project would take, and Collins answered by saying a design-build firm is scheduled to be selected in the fourth quarter of 2023.
Construction is expected to begin in 2024 and be completed in 2027.
In response to the next question, Chris Edmondson, a GDOT consultant, said that the Virgil Langford Road interchange will cost $1.9 million and the Oconee Connector interchange will cost $77 million.
Edmondson is with CHA Consulting, Inc., an international engineering consulting firm with offices in Atlanta.
Amber Phillips, a GDOT environmental and noise specialist, told the next questioner that GDOT will consider noise abatement as part of the design during the current phase of the project. That will be completed in 2023.
Phil Copeland, another GDOT consultant, said that 12 properties will be impacted by the Oconee Connecter interchange, and seven will be impacted by the Virgil Langford bridge.
One business, on the northern side of SR 316, will be displaced by Virgil Langford construction, Copeland said. Copeland is with HNTB, a construction engineering company in Atlanta.
In the pre-recorded video, Njoku said “there is a potential need for a detour during construction” of the Oconee Connector interchange.
The seventh question, and four of those that followed, dealt specifically with the detour route.
In response to the first question on the detour, Edmondson said GDOT does not yet have good estimates on the number of eastbound vehicles that will have to exit onto Jimmy Daniell Road if the contractor decides to close the eastbound exit at the Oconee Connector.
“We call this a potential detour,” in a follow up question. “It will be up to the contractor. He’s got a couple of options during construction. But we think he is more likely going to utilize this option."
“We’re giving him a maximum of 45 days to implement the detour, finish the construction he needs to do, and then open everything back up,” he said.
“The contractor will be given specific directions on his obligation to coordinate with the public,” Edmondson said in response to a question I posed.
The contractor will be required to put up message boards “at least a couple of weeks” before implementation of the detour.
“Making sure that the county and the EMS and the general public know exactly what’s going on is priority to this project,” he said.
Jeff Hood asked if the 45 days for the detour were calendar days or business days and what allowances would be made for weather.
Edmondson didn’t provide a precise answer on how the 45 days would be counted.
“These contractors, they know what they are doing,” he said. “We’ve seen them construct bridges in a shorter time than that. This is not that difficult. This is just raising the grade up. We feel like it is more than enough time, even factoring in weather.”
Edmondson said that during construction, two lanes of traffic in each direction will be maintained on the Oconee Connector. SR 316 also will remain open.
The contractor “is going to have to construct as much of the ramp as possible,” Edmondson said. He was referring to the ramp that will lead to the bridge carrying the Oconee Connector over SR 316.
During the detour, the contractor “is going to have 45 days to bring fill earthwork in and raise that grade” so the exit fits with the ramp, he said.
The detour cannot be implemented until the bridge carrying Virgil Langford Road over SR 316 is completed and functional.
Edmondson said it will take 12 to 18 months to elevate Virgil Langford Road and build the bridge.
Collins estimated that when the detour is used it will add “two, three, four minutes” to the drive to reach the Oconee Connector.
Jennifer Walker, one of the organizers of citizen opposition to the rezone for the Publix at the intersection of the Oconee Connector and Mars Hill Road, asked several questions during the virtual session.
In response to one of those questions, Edmondson said the median opening on the Oconee Connector shown on the GDOT plans “matches with the existing median opening that is out there now.”
The existing median opening “will be replaced in kind,” he continued.
“It’s no different than what is in the existing condition right now,” he repeated.
In the zoning request for the Publix, property owner Maxie Price asked for a new cut one the Oconee Connector at the median break providing access to the 47 acres he owns west of the Connector.
He also said he wants a traffic signal at the median cut.
The new design shows neither of those.
Jeff Hood asked specifically about traffic lights on the Oconee Connector, but Paul Slone, another GDOT consultant with CHA, responded instead about a new traffic light planned for the exit ramp from SR 10 Loop onto SR 316 just east of the Connector.
He said this is a new type of light, which he called a “Continuous Green T” that has “provided significant cost savings for the project.” The goal is to move traffic existing SR Loop 10 into a dedicated lane on SR 316 as it crosses east to Athens.
He then incorrectly said there would be traffic lights at the entrance and exit on Virgil Langford Road.
I asked for a clarification of this, and this time Edmondson explained that there will be traffic lights on the Oconee Connector at the exit and entrance ramps both north and south of SR 316.
The signal at Mars Hill/Daniells Bridge Road and the Oconee Connector “will not change at all,” he said.
The signal at the intersection of the Oconee Connector and Virgil Langford Road will be modified to accommodate a new turn lane, he said.
There will be no new signals on Virgil Langford Road, Edmondson said.
In response to another question, Edmondson said that the speed limits on SR 316 will change after construction is completed.
At present, the speed limit is 55 mph through all three of these interchanges.
In the future, the speed limit will be 65 mph through the Jimmy Daniell interchange, he said.
“As you approach the Oconee Connector interchange, you slow down to 55 mph,” he said. That will be at roughly at the bridge for Virgil Langford Road.
The speed limit will drop to 45 mph a short distance after passing under the Oconee Connector bridge, he said.
One of the questioners asked why roundabouts were being used at Jimmy Daniell Road and not on the Oconee Connector.
“We looked at roundabout throughout this project,” Edmondson said.
“It was concluded that they’re not needed,” he said.
Slone said GDOT evaluates every intersection and tries to find the right design.
“There is a variety of factors that is evaluated in each matrix, and each intersection is boiled down to a bottom line score,” he said. “And in this case, the traffic signals scored the best.”
At the May 26 meeting, questions about the two proposed roundabouts on Jimmy Daniell Road dominated the discussion.
The comment period for the proposed designs for the Virgil Langford Road and Oconee Connector interchanges runs through July 13.
Njoku said those comments would be compiled by GDOT and included in a public report that will become part of the record from the Virtual Public Information Open House.
Separate comment forms for the two projects are available on a page inside the Virtual Meeting Room.
The online form for Virgil Langford Road is HERE.
The online form for the Oconee Connector is HERE.
At the meeting of the Technical Coordinating Committee of MACORTS on Wednesday morning, the transformation of SR 316 was once again on the agenda.
GDOT has come before MACORTS in recent months asking it to change its planning documents to include work on Jimmy Daniell Road, Virgil Langford Road, and the Oconee Connector.
MACORTS is the regional Metropolitan Planning Organization, and its documents must reflect federal transportation funding in the northern part of Oconee County.
GDOT has said it plans to use federal funding for the three SR 316 projects.
On Wednesday morning, Robert Walker, MACORTS Transportation Planner, told the Technical Coordinating Committee that GDOT has increased funding available for the 2045 MACORTS Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP) by $29.1 million.
The original projected revenue, produced in 2018, was $427.5 million, and the new projection is $456.6 million.
GDOT had earlier requested that MACORTS allocate money for the SR 316 projects that exceeded the 2018 projections.
The Technical Coordinating Committee sent the change in the available funding forward to the MACORTS Policy Committee for final action when it meets next month.
The video was recorded by GDOT and is on its YouTube channel.
Collins began answering questions at 20:09 in the video.
In this post and in others, I have spelled Jimmy Daniell Road with the second L in Daniell, although GDOT drops the second L.
Oconee County documents usually use the second L, since the family name is spelled with the second L.