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4-22-05 GA 316, University Parkway, Dreams, Vision and Reality

AJC-1.26.04 But a road-building expert familiar with the design says the economics of highway construction, especially those likely now to come into play with 316, probably will change the design. . Installing and maintaining eight interchanges on that part of 316 could undermine the potential profitability of the road for private financiers.

AVOC

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April 13, 2005

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GA 316, University Parkway, Dreams, Vision and Reality

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By Wendell Dawson, Editor, AVOC, Inc.

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GA 316 has been in area ‘news’ for several years.  Many folks in the area, including this writer, have supported the idea of a high-class corridor with Technology and Bio-Science type development. This was and is the dream.   It began in the early 90’s and is still only a dream after more than 10 years.

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University Parkway as a connecting road for the University of GA and Emory, Georgia Tech etc is a great concept.As with most dreams, reality sets in and frequently changes the focus.The reality is the value of land for development, consultant costs and money - lots of it for the ‘upgrade’.

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While different suggestions come forth, little real progress seems to have been made on the physical upgrade.   Barrow County has an ‘Interchange Plan’ designed by Moreland-Altobelli, Inc, the consulting firm of former DOT Commissioner Tom Moreland.Several years ago, I reviewed the plan with Chairman Eddie Elder and Tom Moreland and Stan Coley, President of the University Parkway Alliance.It was a local effort to get things going.It planned an interchange at Craft Road- site of the Georgia Club.Much of the emphasis on Hotels and Conference Centers changed after 9-11.

SEE RELATED STORY BELOW, Much rides on Ga. 316 upgrade, IN THE ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION on January 26, 2004.

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It will take much money to upgrade the road.Area property owners are logical supporters and means of helping it happen.While they may benefit, I have always felt Dr. Stan Coley and Bobby Smith were honorable men with a vision and some means to help it happen. Unfortunately, they run into that old problem of needing much money to realize the dream.Many of us learned 10 years ago that State Officials and Legislators would not allow a $ Billion to be spent on one road with a relatively small population.

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Some worked on the idea of a public-private partnership and tolls eventually surfaced.  However, some high figures were publicized and the politicos and others have had a “Hayday” with that.   However, they, like others before them, are learning that there are few alternatives.   My position for sometime is to allow the work to be done, under state overview as to costs, and then let the state help pay some of the toll.

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The lack of money and heavy traffic are not just limited to GA 316.Other Metro corridors are looking at similar problems.   Some of these corridors have more traffic and resources.Tolls will be used.While there is some political weight behind the GA 316 upgrade, it has never been enough to make it happen. Other corridors will be more receptive.

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I wish that the vision of many could be realized.   GA 316 Vision Statement on 2-4-00   

02/04/00 - University Parkway Joint Vision Statement By WD .

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This area has a great opportunity for an attractive corridor but it takes much money and a unified effort.Keeping developers, consultants, property owners and politicians on a focused goal is much like ‘..herding cats.’It is not easy.

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Meanwhile, time and opportunity move on.


4-9-05 This N That by AJC’s Jim Wooten

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The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

http://www.ajc.com/opinion/content/opinion/wooten/index.html

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April 8, 2005COLUMN

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Toll roads, real heroes, Jane Fonda

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THINKING RIGHT -By Jim Wooten

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- Toll roads, or more precisely toll lanes, like the proposed 26-mile I-75, I-575 project through Cobb County, make sense. They're clean. The state hires the private sector to build and deliver. The state tolls. Motorists can choose to pay or ride free, depending on their hurry…...


4-4-05 Barrow County Discusses GA 316 & Transportation Issues

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The Barrow County News

http://www.barrowcountynews.com/news.shtml

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April 3, 2005

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Transportation answers sought for Barrow

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Barrow Countians who convened with the district's representative on the State Transportation Board are awaiting answers to some of their questions.
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Barrow County Chamber of Commerce President Carolyn Wright said Bill Kuhlke Jr., who represents Barrow County, visited Tuesday with community leaders when she pulled together a last-minute gathering.
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Kuhlke was in Athens and was scheduled to be in Jefferson later in the day but was able to schedule a stopover at the Chamber.
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"He couldn't give us any answers but there were some really great questions asked," said Wright. "He left with about five questions that he will be getting back with us on.
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"He left knowing Barrow County wants answers," said Wright.
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Those gathered were interested to know if the interchanges have already been decided. While suggested intersections have been presented in a Moreland Altobelli proposal developed on behalf of Barrow County and
there has been speculation about what is offered in The Parkway Group's Public/Private Initiative, there are few answers.
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Jerry Maynard asked Kuhlke why not go ahead and buy up those intersections so other development can begin, Wright said.
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After recent indications in the media that some transportation leaders consider the Parkway Group's proposal for the University Parkway to be dead, those at the meeting asked what would be Plan B: What is the next alternative to address the traffic safety and design issues of Highway 316?
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Wright said it was uncertain whether the five-point initiative offered by State Rep. Bob Smith and businessman Jim Ivey had been reviewed. That plan suggests interchanges at Highway 53, at Highway 81 and one more to be determined. Possibly two flyovers at a cost to be determined are also suggested.
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The lack of information is "holding up economic development," said Wright…....


4-1-05   GA 316 Toll ‘Not Dead’

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11Alive

http://www.11alive.com/news/news_article.aspx?storyid=60930

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Reported by: Jon Shirek

3/29/2005 9:08:43 AM

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Georgia 316 Toll 'Not Dead'

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A proposal to transform Georgia Highway 316 between Lawrenceville and Athens into a toll road may still be in political trouble, but the state has not "nixed" it, as an Associated Press article reported Monday. 11Alive.com reprinted the AP article and 11Alive News and other news outlets repeated the information as well.
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"That's news to me," State Transportation Board Chairman David Doss of Rome told 11Alive News, saying he was surprised when he saw the reports Monday morning.
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"This project is not dead," said State Transportation Board Member Dana Lemon of McDonough.

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In fact, the State Transportation Board has not yet voted on whether to enter into a "commitment agreement" with the private consortium of business people proposing the toll project. The agreement is one in which the Board would study the pros and cons of the project and negotiate changes to it before voting, up or down, on the merits of the toll project itself.

The consortium, called the Parkway Group, has asked the Transportation Board to postpone voting on whether to enter into the agreement. The Parkway Group wanted the Board to delay voting until April at the earliest while the Georgia Legislature considers possible changes in the law authorizing the Board to enter into partnerships with private entities such as the Parkway Group.

Monday's AP article, rewritten from an article published on Sunday, March 27, in the Gwinnett Daily Post, reports that one of the Transportation Board members, Garland Pinholster, along with State Rep., John Heard (R-Lawrenceville), believe the proposal is dead, politically.

"I believe we are not going to toll people for pavement that already exists," said State Transportation Board member Garland Pinholster, according to the Gwinnett Daily Post.

"It might take 20 years before the entire package [of needed improvements to GA 316] is done, but it will be done without a toll," Heard is quoted as saying in the same Post article
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Because the Transportation Board has not yet rescheduled a vote on whether to enter into a commitment agreement, Pinholster is quoted as saying that amounts to an "indefinite tabling" of the matter and one of the reasons he believes the project is dead.

It takes a vote of seven members to decide the question on the 13-member board. At least two members are on record against any toll, under any circumstances. Five members contacted by 11Alive News on Monday said they support going ahead with the commitment agreement to study the toll proposal, which, they emphasized, does not mean they support or oppose a toll road.

Sources within the Transportation Department say at least two additional members are on record supporting a study, although they have not yet returned messages from 11Alive News.

"We have not decided the toll question," Board Member Raybon Anderson of Statesboro said. "We need to look at all the options."


Board Member Bill Kuhlke of Augusta said, "Politically, the big fear is the cost of the toll." Kuhlke went on to say, "That's the purpose of the commitment agreement, just to study it."

"Georgia 316 is too valuable a part of the state transportation system to give up" on proposals to unclog its traffic congestion, said Board Member Johnny Gresham of Marietta. "I'm not convinced a toll is the best way to go about" paying for the road improvements, he said, but, "if we sign a commitment agreement, all we are doing is, we study it."

Gresham said, "We need to get all the facts, and it would be a mistake not to look" at some sort of toll plan as one of many solutions. "We could have a student lane," Gresham said, in which students traveling to and from the University of Georgia could get discounted or free passage on the highway. "There are so many options, we have to look at them," said Gresham.

Board Chairman David Doss agreed with Gresham, saying the commitment agreement would allow the Board to negotiate reduced or free tolls for students and car-poolers, before deciding whether the overall project makes sense for commuters and taxpayers.

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"We would never turn over ownership of a public road to a private group," Doss said, and published reports of the proposed toll being $ 1.70 one-way are "not accurate, that's a worst-case scenario" based, he believes, on early estimates that have not yet come before the Board for consideration”.


4-7-05 Much Riding On GA 316 Upgrade

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The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

http://www.ajc.com/

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SECTION: Business Horizon PAGE: E1

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January 26, 2004

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Much rides on Ga. 316 upgrade

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By JULIE B. HAIRSTON

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There will be more than tolls riding on the new plan for converting Ga. 316 to a limited-access highway.

With visions of Ga. 400 -- north metro Atlanta's asphalt economic pipeline -- dancing in their heads, landowners and developers, many of them in Barrow County, have spawned a fury of land speculation along the highway and key intersections over the past five years. A prime commercial spot can now fetch $0,000 an acre or more.

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Now, with the long-anticipated proposal on the table from a consortium of road builders called the Parkway Group, property owners are close to finding out whether a 316 tollway will be their road to riches or ruin.

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Consider P.R. "Bobby" Smith, a farmer who was U.S. deputy secretary of agriculture under President Jimmy Carter. He's one of the largest landowners in the Ga. 316 corridor. Smith, his business interests and close family members own about 840 acres of land surrounding 316, according to a Journal-Constitution analysis of recent county property tax records.

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Smith is a founding member of the University Parkway Alliance, which has been pushing for the conversion of Ga. 316 to limited access since it opened in 1994. Members of the alliance own about 3,200 of about 10,300 acres along the roadway. Those parcels span the entire length of the roadway, which stretches from Lawrenceville in Gwinnett County to Athens in Clarke County, but much of the land is in Barrow County.

"With the financial condition the state of Georgia is in today, for the foreseeable future [private financing with tolls] is probably the only way they're going to get it built in the next generation. It's just a matter of practicality," says Smith, who stands to be a big winner when the road is upgraded and development follows.

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Smith says he loves his land, which is currently valued at $.5 million, and has no plans to develop it anytime soon. His family has farmed it for more than 200 years. But he believes the highway will make the land more valuable to his children "when it comes time for them."

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A riskier gamble

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Nearly everyone buying, selling or holding land along the parkway is familiar with a set of designs prepared in 2000 by former Georgia Transportation Commissioner Tom Moreland's engineering firm, Moreland Altobelli, at the Barrow County Commission's request.

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The maps show a redesigned parkway as an elaborate series of eight diamond interchanges in Barrow County and access roads running parallel to the highway for almost the entire length of its 17 miles through the county. Much of the land speculation to date has focused on those interchanges, which typically bring the first development and highest dollar.

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But a road-building expert familiar with the design says the economics of highway construction, especially those likely now to come into play with 316, probably will change the design.

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Given the largely rural nature of that part of Barrow County, installing and maintaining eight interchanges on that part of 316 could undermine the potential profitability of the road for private financiers.

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With each intersection costing between $ 0 million and $ 2 million to build, finding the money to include all of the intersections envisioned in Moreland Altobelli's plan would be very difficult, said Daryl Fleming, an engineer with E-Trans Group. Fleming worked on the state Transportation Department 2002 feasibility study on upgrading University Parkway.

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"I just don't see how that would ever pencil out," Fleming said. "You'd never get that by the banks."

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While the locations of interchanges in the new proposal from the private Parkway Group are a closely guarded secret, only three interchanges are likely to be built as 316 traverses Barrow County -- most likely its three intersections with other state roads, Ga. 81, Ga. 53 and Ga. 11.

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That makes what once seemed like a safe investment in land around the previously proposed exits a much riskier gamble.

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The Georgia Club

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Stan Coley, a former University of Georgia researcher turned businessman and chairman of the University Parkway Alliance, struck a deal in 1998 to develop 1,200 acres of gently rolling former farmland on the Barrow-Oconee County line into a high-end resort property with loose ties to the university's alumni association.

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The Georgia Club began with an 18-hole golf course and a posh clubhouse with upscale amenities. The links to the university helped recruit an active membership. Additional plans called for development of a conference center, hotel and additional recreational facilities.

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Then came the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The subsequent economic slide hit hardest in the travel industry. Financing for the hotel and conference center vanished. The Georgia Club's contractors -- everybody from the architect to the brick mason -- filed liens on the property and construction ceased.

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During the resulting redesign of the club, Coley sold his interests in the development to his Irish partners, and new management retooled the club's concept. Now the Georgia Club has been reinvented as an upscale residential community for retirees and second-home buyers. That got bulldozers rolling again.

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Jim Vanden Berg, the Georgia Club's new chief executive, is confident that the planned upgrade of 316 will enhance the development's attractiveness with quick, safe access to Athens and Atlanta.

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"We're 1,200 acres. Upon build-out and completion, we'll have 900 homes. We're going to have a pretty large community," Vanden Berg said. "It's pretty important to us."

But Vanden Berg's faith lies in a Craft Road exit off 316 -- an exit included on the Moreland Altobelli plan but the least likely exit in that plan to pay back its cost in toll revenue.

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The club even erected a large pillar and fence at 316 and Craft identifying it as the entrance to the club.

But competition from other intersections may separate the pillared entrance from the artery the Georgia Club management is counting on to pump business its way.

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Vanden Berg said getting direct access to the parkway is not a life-or-death issue for the club. But it clearly would be a factor in how he markets his properties.

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"For most people, it's really more of a safety issue," Vanden Berg said. "Traffic is only going to get heavier on 316 as the university [of Georgia] continues to grow."

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Others to profit, too

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Other members of the University Parkway Alliance are in better position to profit from the parkway upgrade. Retired farmer Smith, People's Bank President Chris Maddox and his family, and auto dealer Brad Akins -- all members of the alliance -- are among the 10 largest Barrow County landholders at key intersections, with combined holdings of 781 acres valued at more than $ million.

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Akins, who owns a stock-car racing team and one of the largest Ford dealerships in the Southeast, is perfectly poised to take advantage of the parkway upgrade.

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For almost four years, the Barrow County businessman has been trying to pull together all the necessary elements for a 115-acre commercial development at its intersection with Ga. 81. He bought the largest chunk, about 100 acres, for $.5 million from bank executive Maddox and paid about $ 1.2. million for the entire parcel, significantly more than the county values the holdings at.

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Akins also owns an additional 268 acres near the parkway's intersection with Ga. 53. There, he says, he envisions a retail center and a hotel.

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Although he expressed some hesitation about the toll, Akins said knowing what the future holds for the road is better than the uncertainty that has hung over it for more than a decade. And he strongly favors the improved safety that comes with making the highway limited access.

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Even though the original plan has now been superseded, one of the winners in this asphalt sweepstakes is likely to be Moreland's family. Moreland Altobelli will be a subcontractor for the private proposal team on the 316 conversion.

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Moreland's son, Stephen Moreland, a part-owner of Moreland Altobelli, and daughter Vicki, listed with the Georgia secretary of state as the firm's chief financial officer, own a combined 42 acres on two key corners at 316 and Ga. 81. They bought the bulk of the land in 1986 from their uncle, Walter Stewart. Stewart and his wife own 110 acres near the same intersection, according to county records.

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The financial fate of these and other property owners in the University Parkway corridor rests in the private plan now closely held by the state Transportation Department. Many will watch closely as the details are divulged.


4-8-05 GA DOT Receives Toll Lane Proposal for I 75-575

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The Georgia Report

CapitolImpact.Com

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April 6, 2005

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DOT receives toll lane proposal for 75-575

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By Tom Crawford

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A group of private contractors has submitted a proposal for building toll lanes alongside the heavily traveled I-75 and I-575 corridors in Cobb and Cherokee counties, a move that will trigger a long review process by state transportation officials.

Georgia Transportation Partners (GTP) presented its proposal last week in a meeting with officials from the Department of Transportation (DOT), the State Road and Tollway Authority and other transportation agencies.

GTP envisions building "express toll lanes" along I-75 and I-575, from I-285 to Hickory Grove and Sixes roads. Motorists could use these lanes to avoid the congested interstates by paying tolls that could range from less than 10 cents per mile off-peak to 40 cents per mile during peak travel periods, or $ to $ for a typical 10-mile trip.

Tolls would be collected electronically at highway speeds, eliminating the need for toll booths. Toll rates would vary depending on the time of day, the direction of travel, and the level of congestion.

"Under our plan, commuters will have a choice of using toll lanes for a quicker trip or continuing to use the existing lanes, which will remain free," said GTP’s project manager, Jim Dell.

GTP’s proposal would allow rapid transit buses to use the new express toll lanes, and also includes an option for toll lanes that commercial trucks would be required to use to further relieve congestion and improve traffic safety.

GTP is a joint venture of Bechtel Infrastructure Corp. and contractors Gilbert Southern Corp. and C.W. Matthews Contracting Co.

Under the state law that regulates these public-private construction proposals, an advisory panel of DOT officials and possibly some outside engineering consultants will review the proposal and make a recommendation to the State Transportation Board on whether to go ahead with the project.

“It’s really just evaluation now,” said DOT spokesman Bert Brantley. “We did not get any competing proposals - the decision is on whether to move forward or not.”

Brantley noted that DOT’s review of a toll road proposal for the stretch of Georgia 316 from Gwinnett County to Athens took nearly a year to complete. That proposal has been put on hold at the request of the Parkway Group, the business consortium that wants to build the toll road.


4-1-05 Toll Opponents Lose Big in GA House

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The Gwinnett Daily Post

http://www.gwinnettdailypost.com/

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March 30, 2005

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Toll opponents lose House vote

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By Dave Williams

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ATLANTA - Opponents of the Ga. Highway 316 toll project lost a vote in the House on Tuesday by a wide margin.

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But they still sent an important message, said Rep. John Heard, R-Lawrenceville.
Heard attempted to amend a Senate bill by prohibiting the state Department of Transportation from authorizing tolls to pay for improvements to existing highways.

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While the amendment was defeated 148-19, Heard said lawmakers put the DOT on notice that they’re watching toll road projects closely.

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“My intention was to get legislation to block (Ga.) 316 and any future tolling of existing asphalt,” he said following Tuesday’s vote.“I think we made a solid point that the Legislature will not sit idly by and let the DOT board toll the citizens of Georgia.”

The underlying Senate bill, which passed unanimously, overhauls a 2-year-old law that allows road builders to propose, finance and build highway projects that have not been requested by the DOT. ……..


4-2-05 Public-Private Road Measure Passes

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The Augusta Chronicle

http://augustachronicle.com/stories/033005/met_3761243.shtml

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March 30, 2005

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Measure on road projects passes

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ATLANTA - The public would have easier access to proposed road construction plans - such as an existing bid to turn Georgia Highway 316 into a toll road - under a bill that won approval Tuesday in the Georgia House.

The measure, already passed in the Senate earlier this year, cleared the House in a 170-0 vote.

"All this bill does is give you more disclosure," said House Transportation Committee Chair- man Vance Smith, R-Pine Mountain”…….

The new law would require private developers who submit a construction proposal to the state to include an executive summary detailing the project's location - including on ramps, off ramps, access roads and other facilities. Many residents of northeast Georgia have protested a private bid to overhaul Georgia 316, the heavily traveled artery connecting Athens to Interstate 85 in Gwinnett County.

Residents have complained the current proposal by The Parkway Group doesn't contain enough information on how the highway would be altered.

Representatives of The Park- way Group have said the state's current law doesn't allow them to share much of the details on the road upgrade until after the company enters formal negotiations with the state.

The bill would allow such information to become public knowledge as soon as the state receives a private road bid.

The Parkway Group had already asked the state Department of Transportation to indefinitely postpone its vote on whether to began formal talks on the project until after the legislature finished dealing with the bill.

There was no immediate word Tuesday from The Parkway Group as to when or if the company would ask the DOT to resume talks on Georgia 316.


4-1-05 Toll Sections On I - 75 Etc?

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The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

http://www.ajc.com/news/content/metro/0405/01bid.html

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April 1, 2005

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Toll road bid rolls out
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Group to make pitch today for pay lanes along I-75, I-575


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