The T-SPLOST is being marketed as a last chance for various Georgia counties and municipalities to get on the fast track for building anything transportation-related in the next couple of decades, and so far most counties are sticking with the tried and true method of asphalt and cement almost everywhere.
I would love to wave a magic wand and get the 39-mile Firefly Trail completed for bicyclists to have a safe route from Athens-Clarke to Greene County through Oglethorpe County, but this is about Oconee. Organizers of this proposed route had a tent and were taking surveys at this weekend's past Twilight Criterium. As long as I am dreaming, how about a Commerce to Madison bike trail along Highway 441?
Athens-Clarke County organizers thought outside of the box recently with a forum where former Texas Agriculture Commissioner and Secretary of the Railroads Jim Hightower came to inspire the local activists and planners with his own brand of fiery populism.
He spoke about how Dallas, Texas has a viable transportation infrastructure where rail remains the favorite for various governments, including Fort Worth, to jump in on the line. Hightower also commented on how he can take a train from Washington to New York and beyond with no problem when he is on the East Coast.
Any future commuter rail plans for Athens would have to include Oconee County in the mix, most likely through the municipality of Bogart. Once, not all that long ago, a passenger train would bring fans from Atlanta and Emory Station in Decatur to Sanford Stadium for the football games at the University of Georgia. I can recall seeing the caboose clogged with red and black while living on Seminole Avenue in the late 1980s and early 1990s on the CSX lines.
I am not a traffic planner, but I know what roads clog up around Oconee County. My favorite cut through is Burr Harris Road coming from Mars Hill Road toward the soccer fields of Herman C. Michael or Oconee Veterans Park on Hog Mountain Road (which I would love to see get an extra lane all the way out past North Oconee High School).
I would also expect to see an extra lane on Highway 316 from the perimeter to the county line in both directions sometime soon. The interior left turn lane is completely toast with pickup truck swallowing pot holes pocking the spine of that highway in that small stretch before the Oconee Connector with two left turn lanes.
My dream list of projects to improve the transportation infrastructure of Oconee County would start with, obviously,
- Passenger Rail. We need to get the train to bring students to and from the University of Georgia and make it safe and inexpensive to get to Atlanta in an hour.
- Extra lanes on Highway 441 from the Athens Perimeter past the Oconee Connector. This would help the traffic flow past Athens Academy and Crystal Hills.
- Off-road bike lanes and side walks connecting all the private and public schools with the parks. This would be so simple and easy to do it is almost criminal that this has not been enacted sooner.
- Bike lanes from the State Botanical Gardens across the back of the Agriculture School Equestrian facility meeting up the hill on Simonton Bridge.
- Off shoulder bike lanes on Simonton Bridge/Whitehall Road (see #4).
- Mass transit in Oconee County, including a bus system connected with Gainesville State University Oconee County campus taking students to the eastside of Athens at the very least. I do greatly appreciate that Chairman Melvin Davis did include a possible Highway 441 access for Bishop Farms Parkway, if not a connection from the north and south sections of that unknown road past the Georgia Aquatics Center.
- More specialized buses and vans for the elderly and infirmed. There could be a regular route of the half dozen or so nursing homes in the area. This is a growth area folks, and it could take seniors to the Oconee County Senior Center.
- Establish a back route out of Athens Academy. This would require building a road through Congressman Paul Broun and new Board of Regents Chancellor designate Hank Huckaby's backyards, so this is not going to happen, but it is nice to think about. Essentially an extension from Hagood Lane to Summit Circle would do wonders for my son's school commute.
- The same effect could happen from Allgood Road to Woodridge Lane,
- Or Thornwell Drive to Calls Creek Circle.