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6-16-03 Oconee Federal Highway Projects are Falling Behind



June 16, 2003


Oconee Federal Highway Projects are Falling Behind


By Wendell Dawson, Editor, AVOC, Inc.


It seems that some of the Oconee projects have fallen behind and Athens-Clarke projects have been moved ahead.


The widening of Georgia 53 and Mars Hill Road from Watkinsville to GA 316 started in 1998.   ROW should be purchased already.  The cost will go out of site unless it moves along much faster than it has for the last three years.   This is an extremely important corridor for Oconee County and needs the active support of elected officials.



It is disappointing that the widening of U S 441 South has been delayed again.  This is an important North-South Corridor that can help with economic development in the area.  It will also be beneficial to Heritage Park.


Now that Republicans are in control locally, and at both the State and Federal levels, Oconee should be making more progress on its transportation projects.


For decades, Oconee did not get many State and Federal funded projects.  I took it as a personal challenge to pursue a better record through ACORTS and State and Federal channels.   It looks like our current leadership has let things slip.


Oconee and Madison County will have 'to stay on their toes' in order to get their projects through the process.  The staff for the MPO is the Athens-Clarke County planning staff.   Much of the population of Oconee and Madison Counties is in the Metropolitan Planning Office area and needs to be receiving an equitable share of funding.


ALSO, MACORTS: http://www.athensclarkecounty.com/~planningdept/acorts/2030%20Long%20Range%20Transportation%20Plan.pdf



The Athens Banner-Herald 



June 14, 2003


Road map: Counties look ahead


By Lee Shearer     



   A transportation planning board has approved a three-year slate of transportation projects for Clarke and Oconee counties, and now will begin setting the stage to plan for the next quarter-century.


   The plan adopted by the Madison Athens-Clarke Oconee Regional Transportation Study's policy committee, called the 'Transportation Improvement Plan' (TIP), includes projects slated for work through fiscal year 2006……


   According to projections made by MACORTS planners, the number of people in the three counties is expected to grow by more than 50 percent by then, from about 153,000 in the 2000 census to about 235,000 in 2025.


   A new long-range plan is drawn up every 10 years, after results of each decennial census are released……..


    One is that Athens-Clarke officials want projects in the new plan to reflect the goals of the county's long-range growth goals.     'Our TIP is still not aligned with our land-use plan,' said Athens-Clarke Mayor Heidi Davison, a member of the MACORTS policy committee……


   If a growing chorus of critics has its way, the new long-range plan will also have more 'alternative' transportation plans.


   Numerous comments from the public on the current TIP criticized its heavy focus on roads, at the expense of plans that would make bus, rail, pedestrian and cycling options more convenient.


   The new plan will also for the first time include projects for Madison County, which was added to the MACORTS area this year.

   The MACORTS area includes all of Clarke County, the adjacent, northern portion of Oconee County and the adjacent southern part of Madison County……


   Last week, Moore told the committee the state Department of Transportation had pushed several projects into the future, including a widening of U.S. Highway 441 south of Watkinsville, now scheduled for 2006, and widening Georgia Highway 53 from Watkinsville to Ga. 316, where buying right of way land for the project will now take place in 2006 rather than 2004.




   Among the highlights of the three-year Transportation Improvement Program …….


    The $ million first phase of a new road in Clarke County, the Jennings Mill Parkway. Work would also begin on the Oconee County portion of the road, estimated at $2.1 million.


    $.5 million to buy right-of-way for a planned widening of Georgia Highway 53 from Watkinsville to Georgia Highway 316. The overall project is projected to cost about $3.6 million.


    Widening Lexington Road to six lanes and adding on/off ramps for northbound traffic at the Athens Perimeter, a $.3 million project scheduled for the 2006 fiscal year.


    Replacing the Athens Perimeter interchange at Peter Street with a bridge and limited-access intersection. The $0.8 million project is planned for the 2005 fiscal year.


    Converting an abandoned rail line to a bicycle and pedestrian trail from Dudley Park to a planned multimodal center in downtown Athens. No funds are yet set aside for the project, estimated to cost $ million, but U.S. Rep. Max Burns, R-Sylvania, has said he will try to win federal funding for a portion of the project.


    A multimodal transportation center in downtown Athens, a locally funded $ million project designed to be a transportation hub linking area bus lines to proposed passenger rail service to Atlanta. The future of passenger rail has been thrown into doubt by Gov. Sonny Perdue, however, who has cut funding for the rail program.


    Passenger rail from Athens to Atlanta. Although the future of the program remains in doubt, Congress earmarked $6.4 in planning money for proposed stations along the line, which would include stops at Emory, Tucker, Lilburn, Lawrenceville, Winder, Bogart and Athens, among others.


    Widening portions of U.S. Highway 441 south of Watkinsville. The overall $7.7 million project is 10.9 miles, including 1.9 miles in the MACORTS area.