Upcoming meeting to discuss new paving project

  The passage of a new bill in the House of Representatives will help fund a repaving project in Athens-Clarke County. Local residents can participate in the action.

 The meeting, headed by the Madison Athens-Clarke Oconee Regional Transportation Study, also known as MACORTS, will let the public review drafts of the project documents and give their suggestions and criticisms.

 MACORTS, a cooperative transportation planning group, encompasses the urbanized areas of Athens-Clarke County, parts of northern Oconee County and southern Madison County.

 The group has scheduled a series of public informational meetings in Athens, as well as Madison and Oconee counties, for citizens to review and comment upon drafts of the documents required for the project to take place. The meeting in Athens will take place on Tuesday, March 16, 2010 in the Athens Planning Department Auditorium from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

 The project, US 441/SR 15 Resurfacing, will repave US 441/SR 15 from SR Loop 10 to about 0.2 miles south of CR 478/Newton Bridge Road.

According to Sherry Moore, the transportation planner for the Athens-Clarke County Planning Department, some necessary steps must take place before the project can begin.

 First, the project needs to be included in two documents: the Transportation Improvement Program, also known as TIP, and the Long Range Transportation Plan, otherwise known as LRTP. Both of these documents are required for MACORTS to have access to federal and state transportation funding.

 The annually-updated TIP document contains all of the projects that will receive funding during the next four years. The repaving project is the latest addition to the document. After its annual update, the Athens-Clarke County Planning Department makes it available to the public.

 The LRTP deals with the transportation needs for the next 20 years in the region. Any project that makes it into TIP must also be included in the LRTP to be eligible for funds. The planning department makes this document available to the public after they update it every five years.

 Both documents can be accessed via the Madison and Oconee County Planning Department Web sites, as well as the MACORTS Web site.

 The next step in the process is to supply a space for the public to provide input and discuss their concerns; this is a federal requirement for the county to receive funds.

 Moore says the Georgia Department of Transportation can do the paving quickly if they have the money.

 After the public meetings, Moore says MACORTS compiles all public comment and summarizes it for review by two committees. The committees then make any necessary changes and decisions according to the public’s input.

 The project will begin depending on when the House passes the new bill, titled Jobs for Main Street Act. Moore says this project is a bit different from those in the past because its completion relies on the passage of the bill.

 MACORTS cannot determine an exact time for when the project will begin until the House signs the bill. However, Moore estimates that the project will begin sometime in the summer.

 According to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Web site, the purpose of ‘Jobs for Main Street Act’ is “to create or save jobs here at home with targeted investments ($75 billion) for highways and transit, school renovation, hiring teachers, police, and firefighters, small business, job training and affordable housing – key drivers of economic growth that have the most bang for the buck.”

 The investments are paid for using funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, otherwise known as TARP. The government buys these funds from financial institutions, mainly located on Wall Street, for use in the financial sector to make economic improvements.

 A major component of the bill is to stabilize jobs by investing in infrastructure improvements. Approximately $27.5 billion will be allocated to improving highway infrastructure across the nation. This improvement will have short-term and long-term benefits, such as supporting jobs and saving commuter’s time and money, respectively.

 In 2007, the average daily traffic volume on USS 441/ SR 15 was 14, 615. By 2035, the projected volume is expected to be 24, 720. The bill will cover the $2,291,000 cost of the project.

 Moore says the public should come to the meeting to see what is going on in their region and help build awareness about the project. The public can help ensure that MACORTS spends the funds efficiently.

 If anyone is unable to attend the meetings, he or she can email their comments via the MACORTS Web site, http://www.macorts.org, or stop by the planning departments in their respective counties to view copies of the project drafts. Public comment will be accepted from Feb. 22, 2010 to April 9, 2010.

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