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07/18/01 - Activities on University Parkway

 GA 316- UNIVERSITY PARKWAY: A GA 316 Legislative Study Committee authorized in the 2001 session of the General Assembly has been appointed. It is made up of five senators and five Representatives. In 2000, Representative Bob Smith was very aggressive in supporting the upgrade and setting up the Legislative Committee and was a catalyst in helping to get it going. The Speaker made the five House appointments: Dr. Louise McBee (Democrat) of Athens will chair it; Rep. Keith Heard, Democrat, of Athens is a member along with Rep. Warren Massey of Barrow, Republican; Rep. Rene Untermann of Loganville, a Republican, who represents part of Gwinnett and Rep. Mary Squires, a Democrat, of Gwinnett. The Senate appointees were made by Lt. Governor Mark Smith and are as follows: Sen. Doug Haines (co-chair) of Athens, a Democrat; Senator Gloria Butler of Dekalb County, a Democrat; Sen. Don Balfour of Snellville, a Republican; Sen. Billy Ray of Lawrenceville, a Republican & Sen. Carol Jackson of Cleveland, a Democrat.

The DOT corridor study is being conducted by Post, Buckley, Shue and Jernigan, Consultants. A public hearing was held at the Oconee Civic Center on June 4 and in Barrow and Gwinnett Counties a few days later. The consultants and DOT had representatives present to hear comments and explain the process. Tom McQueen, Project Manager, and Marta Rosen, Administrator of Planning were present. The $900,000.00 study should be complete in the fall and will evaluate the Corridor characteristics, existing and projected traffic, safety issues (Oconee has had no fatalities yet on 316) and possible alternate transportation options, including rail and express buses in the median behind walls that would separate them from accident scenes.

Funding is a big issue and a toll road plan is being considered to raise the funds needed to match the Federal Funding needed. Oconee has three intersections and one to be redesigned to be upgraded to Ramped Interchange Status. The three are: Oconee Connector, Jimmy Daniell Road and McNutt Creek or Bogart Interchange. The one redesign intersection is at the Loop. Even with tolls this upgrade project will be several years in the process (7 to 12), in my opinion. It will probably start with one at a time in each county with the Connector being the first in Oconee. The DOT has bought much right-of-way at the proposed interchanges in the last four years. About 12 acres, + or -, has been bought in recent weeks and months at the Jimmy Daniell Road Interchange site. Right of way is expensive and probably running from $5,000 to $25,000 per acre. Federal funding is involved.



Athens Banner-Herald Thursday, June 21, 2001.

McBee pledges to promote Athens-to-Atlanta corridor

By Joan Stroer <mailto:jstroer@onlineathens.com>

State Rep. Louise McBee says she'll use her role as chairwoman of a new Georgia Highway 316 study panel to promote the Athens-to-Atlanta road as a high-tech corridor and to recommend fresh ways to lure federal dollars to convert it to a limited-access highway.
''I think we've got an opportunity to really do something to protect it,'' McBee, D-Athens, said Wednesday. ''Time is of the essence. I think there are equal needs for both proper development, and for the safety angle.''
State Department of Transportation officials and consultants from PBS&J, an engineering and planning firm conducting a $00,000 study of the road, held a meeting in Oconee County earlier this month to explain the results of a recent survey on Ga. 316, which has a higher accident rate than the state average.
The PBS&J survey found that almost half of those driving on the road travel the entire distance of the highway, and that 30 percent of all trips have two or more people in the car. The survey also showed fatalities on Ga. 316 were most likely to occur not late at night, but between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Converting the road to an interstate-style highway is no longer an academic question -- it's a necessity, said state Rep. Keith Heard, D-Athens, who was also appointed to the legislative study committee
, which is expected to add another voice to the chorus of groups calling for an upgrade.
The panel of five state representatives and five state senators expects to release a report on the matter in December.
''In 10 years, can you imagine?'' Heard said. ''It'll be like I-85. Really the issue is safety.''
Many of those at the Oconee session, including Steve Parks of the 316/University Parkway Corridor Alliance, wanted to hear about how to speed up improvements along the road. Parks said the road ''needs to be put in an urgent status. Typical planning and funding won't work.''
To make Ga. 316 a limited-access highway would cost close to $ billion and would take 30 years to finish with conventional funding methods, said James Evans, project director for PBS&J. In addition to a toll road option, money could come from sales taxes imposed in the three counties along the 40-mile corridor, or from donations of private land, consultant Patti Schropp said.
Data from the survey and the legislative report likely will be used by the transportation department as the state goes in search of federal dollars to pay for an upgrade of the road.”