Monday, September 01, 2014

Oconee County Residents Will Have Chance To Review Proposed Transportation Projects At Two Meetings On Sept. 9

Including Daniells Bridge Road Work

Oconee County residents with opinions on the proposed Jimmy Daniell Road and Daniells Bridge Road projects as well as on other transportation projects in the county will have two back-to-back opportunities to express those views in meetings scheduled for Sept. 9 at the Community Center in Veterans Park.

Madison Athens-Clarke Oconee Regional Transportation Study (MACORTS) will hold from 5 to 7 p.m. what is officially a public hearing on its 2040 Long Range Transportation Plan, which includes the Jimmy Daniell Road and Daniells Bridge Road projects as well as others in the county.

The Oconee County Citizen Advisory Committee for Land Use and Transportation Planning will follow MACORTS with its usual monthly meeting.

At its meeting last week, the Board of Commissioners referred to the Land Use Committee for discussion the proposed widening and reconstruction of Jimmy Daniell Road, the widening of Daniells Bridge Road and construction of an extension of Daniells Bridge Road with a flyover of SR Loop 10.

Cemetery With Recent Grave

So far, public comment has focused on the Daniells Bridge Road projects and most negatively on the extension and flyover, but support of the project now is surfacing, with a key landowner circulating a petition to move forward on the project.

Multiple Versions Of Plan

One difficulty in understanding the public reactions is that there are multiple versions of the flyover plan.

In the plan outlined in the MACORTS document, the current stub of the Oconee Connector that now deadends at Home Depot would be extended across SR Loop 10 and connect up with Daniells Bridge Road by passing through, it seems, the property on which Tom Kittle, 2030 Daniells Bridge Road, has his home and a rental home.

(Click To Enlarge)

Another version of the plan would have the current Connector cross SR Loop 10 further to the east, missing the Kittle home but crossing through the middle of another piece of property he owns.

The second plan, dated 2007, was presented by Oconee County Public Works Director Emil Beshara to the BOC last Tuesday night.

2007 Plan
(Click To Enlarge)

A third plan, which Kittle had drawn up, focuses not on the loop but on extending Daniells Bridge Road so it flies over SR Loop 10, making Daniells Bridge Road a connector to Epps Bridge Parkway.

Kittle told me on Saturday that he drew up his plans based on proposals by former Oconee County BOC Chairman Wendell Dawson, who had been an advocate for the flyover.

The MACORTS plan has an on-ramp and off-ramp from SR Loop 10 onto the Daniells Bridge Road Extension, while the other plans do not.

Kittle Plan
(Click To Enlarge)

Kittle Petition

Kittle is circulating a petition to the BOC saying that those who sign “are supportive of completing the Flyover at the Athens Loop-Oconee Connector–Daniels Bridge Rd. at the earliest possible time.”

Kittle’s property is key to all of the plans. Kittle built his house in 1969, according to county tax records, and his second rental home on the property in 1980.

Kittle does not favor the plan that goes through the property in which his two houses sit.

Bill Ross Involved

Bill Ross owns 62 acres on Dowdy Road, across SR Loop 10 from the Kittle property, and he told the BOC on Tuesday night that he favors the flyover project.

“It would be a major improvement in terms of safety, in terms of bettering our county in general,” Ross said.

Ross, who lives at 1071 Chestnut Glen, off Chestnut Hill Road just east of Kittle’s property, favors the route that would follow the MACORTS plan.

Ross told the BOC that he donated the ROW for that route to the county, and he wants the land back if the county doesn’t plan to use it.

Ross’s 62 acres are for sale and are being listed by the Boswell Group, owned by Jamie Boswell, who is the area representative to the Georgia Transportation Board, which oversees GDOT projects.

According to the Boswell web site, the property is under contract.

Beshara On 2007 Plan

Beshara said the MACORTS plan isn’t workable for two reasons.

First, it would create a tight curve that would require traffic to be slowed to 35 miles per hour rather than the planned 45 miles per hour.

Second, it would bump up against an active cemetery surrounded by the Kittle property.

Beshara also said that the 2007 plan would require the county to purchase ROW from the parking lot of a small strip mall across from the new Krogers gas station as well as from Ross.

That route would leave the existing ROW and some additional property owned by Ross orphaned.

Traffic Counts

Beshara told the commissioners on Tuesday that he didn’t have any firm data on traffic for the flyover, since there is no road at this point. But he said an estimate he found is that 18,000 vehicles per day would use the road by 2030.

Much of this traffic would find it way to where the Daniells Bridge Road Extension ends on Daniells Bridge Road just east of the blind curve where the road curves to accommodate the onramp from SR 316 to SR Loop 10 heading east.

None of the plans address that problem, and Beshara has told the BOC in the past that there is only enough right of way to squeeze three lanes of traffic through that curve. The curve itself would remain unchanged unless Daniells Bridge Road is rerouted.

Most of the 18,000 vehicles would end up at the busy intersection of Daniells Bridge Road and the Oconee Connector.

Traffic Counts

Beshara reported traffic counts for both Daniells Bridge Road and for Jimmy Daniell Road at the meeting on Tuesday, and a more extensive data file is available on the Public Works web site.

The count from May of this year for Daniells Bridge Road at the south end near Hog Mountain Road was 3,905 vehicles per day. Just east of the intersection of Daniells Bridge Road with the Oconee Connector, the count was 8,571.

Beshara sent me another count from that same period via email on Aug. 11. This was from where Daniells Bridge Road intersects Chestnut Hill Road. The count was 3,727.

The count from 2008 for the south end of Daniells Bridge Road was 2,818, while at the north end it was 7,234.

Jimmy Daniell Road at the bridge over McNutt Creek in May had a traffic count of 6,370. In 2008, that figure was 6,076.

Beshara told me after the meeting of the Land Use and Transportation Planning Commission on Aug. 12 that a two-lane road should be able to handle 10,000 vehicles per day.

Timetables Differ

The origins of the current discussion of the Jimmy Daniell and Daniells Bridge Road projects is the receipt by the county on July 3 and July 9 from the Georgia Department of Transportation of project framework agreements for the three projects.

These differ from what is in the MACORTS document to be reviewed at the meeting in Veterans Park on the 9th both in terms of the scope of the projects and the timetables.

The Jimmy Daniell Road project in the MACORTS document is $26.3 million project with preliminary engineering work already authorized and construction designated as Long Range (2020).

In the GDOT project framework agreement, the project costs are $21.7 million, with construction funds authorized in October of 2018.

In the MACORTS document, Daniells Bridge Road widening is a $9.1 million project with preliminary engineering to start in the current fiscal year and construction designated as Long Range.

In the GDOT project framework agreement, the project is to cost $3.7 million, with construction funds authorized in January of 2018.

In the MACORTS document, the Daniells Bridge Road Extension is $4.8 million project with preliminary engineering to start 2017 and construction designated as Long Range.

In the GDOT project framework agreement, the project is to cost $4.9 million, with construction designated as Long Range.

The three contracts before the BOC for approval stated that “all parties shall adhere to the detailed project schedule” as approved by GDOT and listed in attachment B, which is the Project Timeline.

Blame GDOT

Wayne Provost, director of Strategic and Long-Range Planning for the county, at the BOC meeting last week blamed the Georgia Department for Transportation for the discrepancies, saying uncertainties about the three projects were out of the county’s control.

The video below of Provost’s comments runs a little more than three minutes. BOC Chairman Melvin Davis is on the left. Commissioner Jim Luke is in the center, and Commissioner John Daniell is on the right.

The correspondence between BOC Chairman Melvin Davis and the four voting commissioners indicates that Davis had no concern about the agreements when he received them.

Davis told the Board in a letter he wrote on July 10 that the county had received the contracts from GDOT for the three road projects and that “I will be meeting with the GDOT officials to discussion these projects in greater detail next week.”

“If all goes well, plans are to have these items on the July 29, 2014, BOC Agenda,” Davis wrote.

Davis put the items on the agenda and provided the four BOC members with his July 10 letter a few days before the July 29 meeting.

Beshara On 2007 Flyover Plan

The video below is of Beshara's comments at last week's BOC meeting on the 2007 plan for the flyover. It runs a little more than seven minutes.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Freddy’s At Epps Bridge Centre Expected To Be Selling Custard In December, According To Oconee County Permit

Footers For Cheddar's Too

Oconee County has issued a building permit for Freddys’ Frozen Custard and Steakburgers, and construction is underway for the foundation footers for that building and for Cheddar’s Casual Cafe, to be located next door at the Epps Bridge Parkway entrance to Epps Bridge Centre.

The two restaurants will occupy reconfigured outparcels 1 and 2 in Epps Bridge Centre, bringing to three the number of outparcels in the complex with tenants. The core of the mall is surrounded by a total of 12 outparcels.

Turnout Rates In Oconee County May Primary And July Runoff Elections Mask Low Overall Election Participation

16.1 Percent Voted Both Elections

Oconee County’s 23.4 percent turnout in the May 20 primary election and 20.9 percent turnout in the July 22 runoff mask the fact that a smaller percentage of the county’s electorate participated in both elections.

Only 16.1 percent of the electorate voted both in May and again in July, with another 7.2 percent participating in the May primary but not in the July runoff and 4.8 percent voting in the July runoff but not in the May election.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Oconee County Commissioners Approve One New Road But Put A Halt To Three Controversial Road Project Agreements With State

Discussion Of Prezoning Continues

The landowners behind Wal-Mart and Lowe's on Epps Bridge Parkway got approval of a contract for design work for a new roadway to open up their land for future development.

The Industrial Development Authority got encouragement to continue its work on prezoning of land now classified for other use to spur more commercial and industrial development in the county.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Oconee County To Consider Design Work For Roadway To Open More Land For Development Across From Epps Bridge Centre

Gordy Family Tract

Oconee County will soon begin design work for an extension of Parkway Boulevard, which will open up new land for development behind Lowe’s and Wal-Mart, if the Board of Commissioners approves a design services contract for the project tomorrow night.

The new Parkway Boulevard would be an extension of the road that now leads to Kohl’s from Epps Bridge Parkway. The new road would turn back to and connect with the new Oconee Connector, crossing 114 acres owned by the Evelyn and Frank Gordy Family and 41 acres owned by Rod and J.L. Wright.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Oconee County Development Authority Says County Should Begin Zoning Land To Meet County Plans

US 78 And SR 316 Corridors Identified

The Oconee County Industrial Development Authority is calling on the Oconee County Board of Commissioners to set aside its current practice of rezoning property only when an owner requests the change in favor of advance zoning to reflect county plans for future development.

The IDA is scheduled to deliver a report to the commissioners at their meeting on Tuesday night calling on the county to identify key commercial corridors and “pre-zone all parcels in those corridors consistent with the intended long-term use.”

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Oconee County Commissioners Scheduled To Get An Update On Controversial GDOT Project Framework Agreements

No Action Expected

The Oconee County Board of Commissioners is scheduled to get an update on Tuesday night on pending project agreements with the Georgia Department of Transportation for widening of Jimmy Daniell Road, for widening of Daniells Bridge Road, and for construction of an extension of Daniells Bridge Road.

At present, the BOC is not scheduled to take any action on those agreements.