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City holding town hall on growth

The Richmond Hill City Council will host a town hall meeting about growth and traffic issues at 6:30 p.m. July 11 at city hall.

The Bryan County Board of Commissioners is planning a similar gathering to address the same issues, but a date for it has not yet been finalized.

The city's meeting will include presentations by staff and a question and answer session.

"We'll talk about some of the initiatives we've been taking in recent years to prepare for the growth," Assistant City Manager Scott Allison said. "A lot of it has to do with congestion management."

The council recently overhauled the city's ordinances to ensure more uniform development.

“These changes will give the city better tools in managing growth and addressing traffic issues,” Councilman Russ Carpenter said at the time. “Two criteria to consider will be any future development’s impact on schools and traffic. This is not new, but now we will have the teeth in our ordinances to better deal with these issues.”

Since 2014, the city has approved roughly 400 multi-family dwellings, including townhomes on Port Royal Road and Harris Trail and a 280-unit apartment complex off Highway 144 near Timber Trail.

A transportation study jointly commissioned by the city and county has also weighed heavily in each municipality's approach.

The study showed that traffic on Belfast Keller Road is projected to grow from a current 5,000 vehicles per day to 59,000 per day in 2030 if the new interchange on I-95 at mile marker 82 is built. Harris Trail will jump from 3,500 vehicles per day to 19,000. Highway 144 is expected to see an increase from the current 26,000 vpd to 51,000.

County commissioners recently voted to pay up to $2.1 million toward the cost of the new interchange. Richmond Hill Mayor Harold Fowler said the city would do the same.

Bids are expected to be sought this fall.

Officials also say the Georgia Department of Transportation is expected to seek bids next spring on widening Highway 144 from Timber Trail to Belfast River Road. A portion of Highway 144 is in the city, but Allison said most of the city's concerns regarding traffic are related to efficiencies.

"We're looking at things like traffic lights, turn lanes, things that are more related to access management as compared to wider roads," he said. "The new interchange will certainly help, but it will have an impact, too."

The aforementioned study also recommends adding another road that would run northeast/southwest and connect Belfast Keller, Harris Trail and Highway 144 about halfway between Port Royal Road and Belfast River Road, possibly with roundabouts at each intersection. It also recommended adding traffic circles at the intersections of Port Royal Road and Highway 144, Port Royal Road at Harris Trail and Harris Trail at Belfast River Road.

Allison said a letter will be mailed soon to city residents informing them of the town hall and explaining its purpose.

"Our intention is to stay on topic as much as possible, but inevitably with these kinds of things there are unrelated issues that get brought up," he said.

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