News, updates, commentary and more from BikeAthens. BikeAthens is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization based in Athens, GA. BikeAthens promotes transportation and land-use policies that improve alternative modes of transportation, including pedestrian, cycling, and public transit options. The mission of our organization is to make alternative transportation a practical, convenient, and safe option for all citizens of Athens-Clarke County.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Commentary on the Loop Interchange proposal

As for the value of the interchange to the ACC transportation infrastructure, there are some yet-to-be answered questions, particularly regarding the source of funding for the project. BikeAthens has often stood opposed to projects that consume tremendous sums of local transportation funds. Unlike federal funds flowing through GDOT, local transportation funds can be directed to projects at the behest of our own M&C - including bike/ped projects - without GDOT interference, and so are truly prized as the most "flexible" sort of funding, albeit very limited funding.
Jennings Mill Parkway was one example of such a locally-funded project opposed in recent years. BikeAthens favored a two-lane road versus the proposed four-lane road, believing that the four-lane road was overkill for even long-term projected traffic counts, and also because a more reasonable two-lane road would have left significant local funds available for other uses, including sidewalk construction (the four lane design was ultimately approved in an 8:2 vote of the ACC commission).
According to GDOT officials at recent transportation planning meetings, there is a surprising reluctance to put the new Loop interchange project into a GDOT work plan to make it eligible for federal funding, thus, local funding may ultimately be required if the project is to be built. This reluctance on the part of GDOT is not necessarily specific to this project, but is moreof a general blanket policy being put in place by the new GDOT Commissioner - to not add any more roads to the work program at the present time.
$28 M is a significant sum of local funding, and we can think of many other things that the local funds could be used for. On the other hand, we do approve of the elimination of all three of the projects that were scrapped by local planners in order to obtain the $28 M. In addition, there is some very interesting potential for greenspace acquisition that might accompany the purchase of ROW needed for this particular interchange.
Stay tuned .... and weigh in with your own thoughts during the public comment period February 25 - March 12.

Regarding yesterday's Banner-Herald article:
A-C Seeks New Loop Interchange
by Blake Aued 2-13-08
This well-reported story describes plans for a new interchange connecting the Loop to the Atlanta Highway via the existing four-lane dead-end road near Heyward Allen Toyota. The interchange is proposed to relieve increasing congestion on Mitchell Bridge and Tallase/Oglethorpe Roads, which cannot be widened. As the story says, local planners needed to come up with $28 M to fund this project, and to do that made changes to three other existing projects in the transportation plans. The article states:
"Road planners will give up a project that would widen travel lanes and add a center turn lane to South Milledge Avenue between Whitehall and East Campus roads, saving $8 million. They'll scrap wider travel lanes from long-range plans for Jefferson River Road, saving $9 million. .... MACORTS is also drastically cutting back a politically unpopular four-lane road connecting U.S. Highways 29 and 441, instead now wanting to build a two-lane road connecting U.S. 29 to Danielsville road, primarily to serve fire trucks at a new fire station in that neighborhood ..... "
Of interest to bike/ped enthusiasts is that the South Milledge and Jefferson River Road projects both included the construction of bicycle/pedestrian facilities, and although the automobile components of the projects are being scrapped, the bike/ped components will remain intact, meaning that both of these former road-widening projects are now strictly bike/ped projects.
Of interest to the environmental community at large is that a section of planned roadway between Highway 441 (Commerce Road) and U.S. 29 was eliminated. This section of road has in the past been opposed by citizens who were concerned that the road would bisect the Sandy Creek Basin, including Cook's Trail, and cause significant disturbance in a large area of environmentally sensitive wetlands.
The amendment was formally adopted by the MACORTS Policy Committee at their meeting yesterday. There will be a 15-day public comment opportunity on this new interchange beginning February 25. More information on that comment period will be posted next week.