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7-8-05 Transportation Issues in Georgia—GA 316

..The Senator said the project (GA 316) would need much State and Federal funding and that local and Toll dollars won’t make it happen.  …. he could support a one way toll of a Dollar but not Five Dollars.   He is right.  However, those state and federal dollars are “few and far between”.  We have been talking about that upgrade for 15 years…….. little else has happened on the ground.



July 2, 2005


Transportation Issues in Georgia


By Wendell Dawson, Editor, AVOC, Inc.


While driving from Madison County one morning last week, I heard Tim Bryant of WGAU in Athens talking to a Gwinnett County State Senator.  They were discussing GA 316 improvements and the projects under way in Gwinnett County.  He was very supportive of the upgrade of GA 316. 


The Senator said the project would need much State and Federal funding and that local and Toll dollars won’t make it happen.  He also mentioned that he could support a one way toll of a Dollar but not Five Dollars.   He is right.  However, those state and federal dollars are “few and far between”.  We have been talking about that upgrade for 15 years and other than buying some ROW at some Interchanges on the east end, little else has happened on the ground.


Hopefully, Gwinnett will push to get GA 20, Collins Hill, Harbins Road and I-85 interchanges upgraded and that will help a lot.  Maybe some money could be found for the Oconee Connector in Oconee County and one of the State Routes in Barrow.  That would take us much further than we have been so far.   Engineers and consultants keep being paid but little occurs on the actual ground.  Officials and plans come and go.  To get off the dime, GA 316 will need strong regional support and leadership and big dollars.  Maybe they will come along.


Having some more east-west freeways in Georgia is a good idea.  We also need to get U. S. 441 widened from Tennessee to Florida.  All traffic in Georgia does not need to and should not have to go through Atlanta.  I heard GA DOT Commissioner Wayne Shackelford say that at the time of the opening of the Madison By Pass in the early 90’s.  It is a good idea and needs promoting at the State level.  Too often projects of a wider regional or state significance take back seat to local “pork barrel” politics.


Meanwhile, Atlanta traffic is approaching gridlock.  I try to avoid driving to or through Atlanta anymore.  It will take more than talk to improve the situation.

6-18-05 No Tolls on Existing Lanes (GA 316) Voted by  GA DOT Board

The Gwinnett Daily Post



June 17, 2005


No tolls on built lanes, panel says


By Dave Williams


ATLANTA — Responding to months of public criticism of the Ga. Highway 316 project, the State Transportation Board voted Thursday not to accept any road upgrades that would impose tolls on existing lanes.

The possibility of financing new lanes by tolling existing lanes is one of the key complaints that has sidetracked plans to convert the highway linking Interstate 85 in Gwinnett County with Athens into a limited-access toll road.

“Most everybody feels like we’ve built it and paid for it,” said board member Mike Evans of Cumming, who proposed the resolution passed by the board. “We don’t want to have to pay for it twice.”


In the two-page resolution, the board also took positions on several other issues related to the state Department of Transportation’s future consideration of highway proposals.

The resolution declared that high-occupancy vehicle lanes and toll lanes should be separated from the rest of traffic whenever possible and instructed DOT staff to undertake a statewide truck route study to determine the feasibility of establishing truck-only toll lanes in some areas.

Board members had discussed the various new policies during planning sessions last week in Macon.
The portion of the resolution opposing tolls on existing lanes was aimed at public-private initiatives, highway projects that are financed and built by private companies. They recover their investments by charging some form of user fee, generally tolls.

While the Ga. 316 project was the first submitted after the General Assembly passed the public-private initiatives law two years ago, road-building consortiums also have proposed two other major improvement projects along Interstate 285 and Ga. Highway 400 in Fulton County, and on interstates 75 and 575 in Cobb and Cherokee counties. ……..

“One of the things we’ve learned from (Ga.) 316 is that existing lanes ought not to be tolled,” said board Chairman David Doss of Rome after Thursday’s vote. “We heard that loud and clear from the public.”

Doss said the new board policy will require the sponsors of the Ga. 316 project and the other planned improvements to go back and “re-analyze” their proposals. Among other things, they will have to come up with ways to finance the work without much of the anticipated toll revenue.

But Jim Carroll, vice president of project development for Washington Group International, one of the partners in the Ga. 316 consortium, welcomed the new policy as bringing more certainty to the process.

“We’re glad to see they’ve decided what they want,” said Carroll. “We’ll have to see how creative we can be.”

Bill Berry, another vice president for Washington International, said he hopes the board’s action will help get the DOT’s review of the Ga. 316 project back on track.

6-29-05 Little Information on GA 316 & Gwinnett County Talks


The Gwinnett Daily Post



June 29, 2005

Bannister (Gwinnett Chair) meets on Ga. 316 plan


By Bryan Brooks


LAWRENCEVILLE — There just wasn’t much to say after Gwinnett’s chairman met Tuesday with road builders who have proposed turning Ga. Highway 316 into a limited-access toll road.

The road-building consortium, which must redo its plan, said the meeting went well, but declined to say what ideas it floated past County Chairman Charles Bannister.

And a very hoarse-sounding Bannister said he couldn’t talk about the meeting because he is sick with laryngitis.

“Our discussions went very well and we look forward to having more with the Gwinnett leadership if and when we proceed,” said Bill Berry, a vice president with the Parkway Group, which requested the meeting.

The Parkway Group consortium wants feedback from Bannister and other county officials along Ga. 316 before it starts redrafting its plan for improving the heavily traveled route.

The group’s plan now calls for turning Ga. 316 into an interstate-style highway with overpasses and interchanges, and then using tolls to repay investors who finance the work.

But that plan must be tweaked after the state Transportation Board ruled last week that existing highway lanes cannot be tolled as part of public-private projects.

The Parkway Group is kicking around ways it could change its plan, but it has not seriously explored any alternatives, said Parkway Group spokeswoman Rebecca Wallace

The Gwinnett Daily Post



June 28, 2005


GA 316 Toll Talk Cranks Up


By Bryan Brooks


LAWRENCEVILLE — A private consortium of road builders is meeting with Gwinnett Chairman Charles Bannister today, seeking his input before it starts tweaking its toll road plans for Ga. Highway 316.

The meetings will continue in coming days with other elected officials along the heavily traveled corridor that links Interstate 85 to Athens.

The sessions come after the state Transportation Board ruled existing highway lanes cannot be tolled as part of public-private projects, which state officials view as a way to speed up costly road improvements.
As a result, the Parkway Group consortium must change its plans, which call for turning Ga. 316 into an interstate-style highway with overpasses and interchanges, and then using tolls to repay investors who finance the work.

Parkway Group spokeswoman Rebecca Wallace said the road builders are bouncing ideas off county leaders before they retool their proposal.

Wallace declined to identify what scenarios are being floated, but said the project will still focus on the entire 39-mile highway, and not just the Gwinnett County stretch. ……

The Parkway Group’s proposal has been on hold since March, following a public uproar over the prospect of paying tolls to use an existing road, as well as the potential toll amount itself: 12 cents per mile, or $.67 for a one-way trip between I-85 and Athens.

Bannister said he also welcomes the state’s decision to keep existing lanes free.
“That’s very good. I think folks out there would appreciate that,” Bannister said.

Wallace said the consortium, which is led by Idaho-based Washington Group International, plans to meet with leaders in Barrow County and other counties along Ga. 316. ……… Wallace, who did not know when that may occur.

“The project is not dead,” she said. “The policy (banning tolls on existing lanes) didn’t scare them off. It’s just forcing them to look at things differently.”

6-8-05 New GA Freeways in Future


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution



June 6, 2005


Southern states lay groundwork for new freeways



WASHINGTON — Southern states are preparing to grovel over gravel once again, but this time they'll be doing so as allies, not competitors.

Georgia lawmakers have been floating specific routes for interstate highways, just months after unveiling an election-year proposal for two new ones. While concrete wouldn't be poured for years, even under the most ambitious schedule, the aggressive lobbying effort signals that the South's concerns won't be silenced — particularly with highways near the top of the congressional agenda.

When the interstate highway system was conceived in the 1950s, the South's small population didn't justify the kind of highway grid now enjoyed by the West Coast and Northeast. But the last few decades have seen a dramatic shift, and lawmakers insist it's time for the roads to follow the people south.

"What we're trying to do is say, 'OK, so many people are moving South, maybe we need to take this opportunity to begin to do something about it,' " said Rep. Charlie Norwood, (D-Ga.).

The next highway bill — headed for negotiations between the House and Senate early this month — won't do much. But if things take shape as Norwood and others desire, the one after that certainly could.

Tucked in the Senate's version of the latest renewal is a request by Georgia Republicans Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson that would study the feasibility of the two new interstates. Interstate 3 would stretch from Knoxville down the Georgia-South Carolina line to Savannah. I-14 would start in Augusta, cutting west through Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi.

Georgia always has been the gateway to tourist-rich Florida, with two major interstate highways, I-75 and I-95, leading the way.

Atlanta has major highways intersecting it from all directions. However, there are practically no convenient routes from eastern Georgia to Alabama or Mississippi that don't cut through Atlanta, even from the southern part of the state.

Although there is some bickering even among Southern politicians concerning the specifics, there is near-universal support for the basic concept.

"If we could join forces on any regional projects in the South, it makes for good economic, political sense," said Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), a member of the panel that directs transportation spending. "There's strength in numbers."

Each state gets something out of the plan.  Georgia finally gets an east-west interstate connecting three of its largest cities — Augusta, Macon and Columbus — diverting some Atlanta traffic and providing access to rural areas of the state. Likewise, Mississippi would get a long-sought highway crossing its state east-west.

Alabama finally would get a major road connecting its capital of Montgomery with the Mississippi border, cutting through the Black Belt.

Communities in Tennessee and South Carolina would get a more direct route to Florida and the Atlantic Coast.

And the rest of the South would benefit from a more extensive road grid.