Monday, April 29, 2024

GDOT Releases Preliminary Plans For SR 316 Interchanges At McNutt Creek Road, Mars Hill Road, Julian Drive

***Access To Be Closed At Mars Hill Road, Julian Drive***

The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) showed plans at its In-Person Public Meeting in Statham last week for a Right-In, Right-Out Access to SR 316 from McNutt Creek Road and for closing access to SR 316 at both Mars Hill Road and Julian Drive.

The presentation was labeled as “Initial Findings of the SR 316 Planning Study,” and those in attendance at the meeting were advised that “access point improvements may be refined during preliminary engineering.”

The Right-In, Right-Out design for McNutt Creek Road would mean that west bound traffic wishing to access the planned Department of Driver Services and Georgia State Patrol offices on McNutt Creek Road south of SR 316 would have to double back from a full interchange planned at Dials Mill Extension.

Use of that design for McNutt Creek Road is at odds with a statement by SueAnne Decker, GDOT PreConstruction Engineer, at a regional transportation planning authority meeting last July that a “tight urban design” full interchange will be built at McNutt Creek Road.

The session last week at the Statham Community Center was hosted by engineers from the SR 316 Planning Study, which is tasked with proposing improvements to SR 316 beyond those already in the construction phase.

For Oconee County, the SR 316 Planning Study is considering improvements to McNutt Creek Road, Mars Hill Road, Julian Drive, and the Athens Perimeter, where an upgrade of the existing partial interchange is proposed.

Construction of a full interchange at Dials Mill Road and Dials Mill Extension, a full interchange at Jimmy Daniell Road, a flyover at Virgil Langford Road, and a full interchange at the Oconee Connector is scheduled to begin next year.

Statham Meeting

The meeting at the Community Center in Statham began with people lined up outside waiting to get in when the doors opened for the 4:30 p.m. meeting. The meeting was scheduled to last for two hours.

String Of Informational Boards 4/23/2024

GDOT representatives did not give a formal presentation, but they were standing beside a series of Informational Boards and around a large table showing a map of the SR 316, which stretches 40 miles from I-85 in Gwinnett County to the Athens Perimeter in Oconee County.

Participants were told through the Informational Boards that the purpose of the meeting was to “provide an overview of the SR 316 Planning Study” and “obtain feedback on initial analysis findings for potential transportation improvements along (the) SR 316 corridor.”

An additional flyer stated “The study will result in recommended potential improvements to the corridor that would be implemented in addition to the ongoing SR 316 reconstruction projects.”

Explanation of Proposals

The sixth Informational Board, titled Initial Findings: Access Points, showed the proposed improvement for McNutt Creek Road as Right-In, Right-Out, for Mars Hill Road and Julian Drive as Traffic Reroute, and for Athens Perimeter as Interchange Upgrade

The seventh Informational Board said that the Right-In, Right-Out at McNutt Creek Road would “facilitate access to SR 316 to support potential development” and “reduce delay from crossing traffic while maintaining efficient access to SR 316.”

Closing access to SR 316 at Mars Hill Road is justified because of “alternative access provided nearby at McNutt Creek Road and Monroe Highway,” and the closing of the access would “maintain SR 316 travel speeds.”

The recommendation to close access to SR 316 at Julian Drive is accompanied by the suggestion to “consider local street network improvements to provide alternative access points to SR 316.”

The benefit of the design, according to the Informational Board, is that it “maintains SR 316 travel speeds.”

The proposed interchange upgrade of SR 316 and the Athens Perimeter provides “safety and capacity improvements to improve flow along SR 316 and Epps Bridge Parkway,” according to the Informational Board.

The improvements also will “increase capacity for traffic traveling between SR 10 and SR 316,” according to the Informational Board.

Existing Designs

GDOT has released to Sharon Thelen, who runs the Oconee 316 Keeping Neighbors Informed web site, three preliminary plans for the McNutt Creek Road intersection with SR 316.

Display Of Informational Board 4/23/2024

One design shows McNutt Creek Road shifted west to straighten the intersection that flies over SR 316 and does not include access to SR 316.

Another design shows McNutt Creek Road at its current location and allows only right-in and right-out access to SR 316 both south of and north of the divided highway.

The third shows a full, multi-grade interchange of McNutt Creek Road with SR 316, with McNutt Creek Road shifted to the west to create a cleaner 90 degree intersection.

All of these designs show the future home of the Department of Driver Services and of the State Patrol on McNutt Creek Road south of SR 316.

The full interchange design has 10 potential displacements, while the flyover without the interchange shows eight potential displacements, and the right-in, right-out design does not show any displaced properties.

Study Schedule

The SR 316 Planning Study began in the Summer of 2022 and included “stakeholder and public engagement” in the spring and summer of 2023, according to one of the Informational Boards.

More than 100 people attended a meeting at the Bogart Community Center in April of 2023 as part of the SR 316 Planning Study that employed a format identical to the one used for the meeting last week (April 23) in Statham.

According to the Informational Board at the Statham meeting, GDOT looked at alternatives following that 2023 meeting.

The final report of the Planning Study is due in the fall of this year.

It is possible to view the planning documents and watch a video of the work of the SR 316 Planning Study HERE.

And it is possible to leave a comment until May 10 HERE.

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