Lee County Commissioner Greg Fritch, left, and County Manager Ron Rabun discuss transportation issues at a county commission work session Tuesday night. (Staff photo: Brad McEwen)
LEESBURG — Transportation issues dominated Tuesday’s Lee County Board of Commissioners work session as commissioners dealt with two important road projects and had discussion about the area’s long-term transportation plans.
In the board’s first action, commissioners took the recommendations of County Manager Ron Rabun and County Planning, Zoning and Engineering Director Matthew Inman and unanimously approved spending $12,500 from SPLOST VI to contract with EMC Engineering Services Inc. to complete the designs for a proposed extension of Marlow Lane to connect with U.S. Highway 82 at the intersection of Fussell Road.
Rabun explained that the basis for the project was twofold, as it would reduce traffic from other access points along Highway 82 and the intersection would create two desirable tracts on either side of the extension that could attract new businesses looking to locate in the area.
“This has been in our transportation plan for some time,” said Rabun. “It’s a prime intersection that will help traffic flow and also future commercial development. There’s a large amount of traffic in the North Doublegate area during peak times, so there’s a need for relief there, and also to get four hard corners (along Highway 82) for economic development.”
“We want to take this action while the property owner is in the mood do it. She wants to move quickly. It’s in our interest to move quickly, so we don’t have any more delays. The SPLOST money we have in the budget to construct it is there as well.”
Inman echoed Rabun’s remarks, explaining that the short extension was a good way to handle a large problem while also adding potential economic opportunities for the county.
“It’s a very short project, less than a quarter of a mile, that would provide a very good connection for a large amount of traffic and provide some strong economic potential,” said Inman. “We think that once this comes there will be a very big commercial investment just beyond this in the very near future. It will be a very busy intersection for commercial use and also remove the traffic concern. This is a very short road section that connects a very large population of residential traffic to very quick access to 82. It makes a very good connection.”
In the board’s next action, commissioners voted unanimously to approve two change orders totalling $62,270 from Oxford Construction for use on the Westover Road expansion project in order to meet DOT gradation standards for the road bed.
Inman said that the DOT requires the soil of the road bed to be a certain mixture of clay, sand and other materials to ensure the road’s long-term integrity. He said that the soil in the area that was used for the road bed was mostly clay and did not have enough sand in it. Once the proper amount of sand is added to the soil and DOT approval is granted, the project can move forward.
In another transportation related discussion during the work session, Inman requested the board’s support in encouraging community input on the upcoming Dougherty Area Regional Transportation Services (DARTS) 2040 Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP).
Inman explained that the current LRTP ends in 2015 and the 2040 LRTP is the guiding plan to address transportation-related issues in Dougherty County and southern Lee County for the next 25 years. Once the plan is complete, issues addressed in the plan will be eligible for completion with potential Department of Transportation funds.
Part of the creation of that plan is getting input not only from leaders in the two counties, but from individuals who use roads in those areas.
“It’s our next 25 years of planning,” said Inman. “We’re asking the community to get involved. They’re the ones riding these roads. This is their opportunity to express their concerns.”
To that end, Inman is asking members of the community to complete a short survey that will allow them to make suggestions about anything related to transportation issues, such as the need for new roads, new lights, repaving and various other concerns.
“It’s on us to identify our own problems so we can ask DOT for money over the next 25 years,” Inman said. “That’s the entire point of this survey. The survey is about 10 questions long. The whole thing will take five to 10 minutes at the most.”
Inman said that a similar LRTP was recently completed in Worth County and that because only one survey was completed by citizens during the six month period it was available, the final LRTP only listed three roads that need re-paving and did not really address a lot of the needs of that community.
“Everyone that lives in Lee County, drives through Lee County or has a traffic issue at any point in Lee County can take this and have input to the DOT and the input in the study will do directly into the LRTP,” Inman stressed. “We all complain about things like traffic, but rarely does an individual have a chance to share their concerns directly to the DOT.”
After also hearing that the board of commissioners would have an opportunity to review the surveys and also make recommendations as well. Commissioner Rick Muggridge said he would encourage the community to complete the survey and urged the rest of the commission to do so.
“The problem with planning, when we do our comprehensive plan, is engaging enough citizens we get a true sample of what the needs and the desires of the community are,” said Muggridge. “So many times there’s a few politically engaged people that control everything that goes on in the county, because they get engaged. We really need a broad spectrum of people from all walks of life to engage in this brief survey so we can hear and can plan properly.
The survey is currently accessible through the county’s website or directly at http://dartsmpo.org/2040-long-range-transportation-plan-update.
Anyone who lives in and/or uses roads in southern Lee County and any part of Dougherty County is eligible to complete the survey.
In other matters conducted during the work session, the commission unanimously approved the declaring of six vehicles and pieces of equipment as surplus and unanimously OK’d the appointment of Mike Sabot to the Lee County Elections and Registrations Board for the remainer of the year.
The board also heard an update from Rabun on the Livingston Road project and there was discussion concerning other governmental agencies in the county using the county’s procurement system for purchases and acquisitions.