Commissioners Amend Proposed TSPLOST Projects
Controversial "flyover" project among those chopped from the list.
The Oconee County Board of Commissioners approved an amended list of projects to be considered for construction with TSPLOST funds at their agenda-setting meeting Tuesday evening.
At the top of the list, ranked by priority, are phases 1 through 3 of the Mars Hill Road/Experiment Station Road widening project. The construction, at a projected cost of more than $66 million, would expand the road to four lanes and include sidewalks and bicycle lanes.
Chopped from the list were the proposed Daniells Bridge Road extension, known as the “flyover” during discussion, and the hefty $175 million proposal to expand and reconstruct the 2-lane segment of US 441 into four lanes.
“Keep in mind this is our initial stab at a prioritization,” said County Director of Public Works Emil Beshara. “It's a big, long, very expensive wish list.”
The approved list must be submitted to the Northeast Georgia Regional Commission by Thursday, then on to be reviewed by the Georgia Department of Transportation.
Oconee County is acting in conjunction with 11 other counties for the TSPLOST initiative, which is expected to pull in $1.5 billion annually for transportation-related projects. The proposed projects from all 12 counties will be reviewed by the Northeast Georgia Regional Transportation Roundtable before the final “wish list” of all the 12 counties' projects will be compiled.
But the projects cannot happen without the support of the voters.
Next year, voters will have the opportunity to approve the additional one-cent sales tax that funds the proposed projects. If the initiative is approved, the counties' prioritized lists of proposals that had been selected for construction are virtually set in stone.
Commission Chairman Melvin Davis – who joins 23 other elected officials on the roundtable – said if the roundtable prioritizes a particular proposal in the No. 1 spot, and the voters approve TSPLOST, construction on the project must begin within the 10-year lifetime of the TSPLOST initiative.
The flyover proposal raised concerns from some citizens, prompting its removal from the list.
“The concepts are changing constantly,” said Oconee County resident Ralph Johnson. Johnson said he has seen the cost estimates range from $10 million to $30 million, and noticed discrepancies regarding on-ramps.
Resident Lee Becker contended that the project would dump four lanes of traffic onto roads ill-equipped to handle the increase in traffic.
The project was slated to extend a four-laned Daniells Bridge Road from the Chestnut Hill Road intersection to Jennings Mill Parkway, as well as adding a bridge over Loop 10 and traffic lights at the Daniells Bridge Road intersections of Chestnut Hill Road and the Daniells Bridge Road Extension. It was designed to reduce the volume of traffic where SR316 intersects the Oconee Connector and Loop 10.
Wayne Provost, the director of strategic and long-range planning, said the project has been on the drawing board for more than 20 years.
Though the project was slashed from the list, Commissioner John Daniell said the proposal may come up in the future.
“I just don't want anybody to think this is the end of the road on that,” he said.
A few new projects were also added, as Oconee County Observations blogger Lee Becker reports.
Also at the meeting:
An alcohol license for Acapulco's Mexican Grill, located at 1260 Mars Hill Road, was placed on the consent agenda.
An application for the “Tour d'Oconee” bike race, a 62-mile bike race planned for May 7, was placed on the consent agenda.
A request by Robert Glass, the sole property owner on Glass Road, to have the county formally abandon the .81-mile dirt road was placed on the consent agenda.
A contract to house Fulton County prisoners at the Oconee County Jail was approved. The county was previously in an identical contract with Fulton County, but the prisoners had been removed.
An amendment for the Bear Creek Recreational Project to allow floating boat dock, sidewalk and other improvements was placed on the consent agenda.
The next meeting will be held on April 5.