Officials with the Georgia Department of Transportation kicked off a Bryan County Transportation Study by conducting a meeting with area officials on Nov. 18 at the Richmond Hill/Bryan County Chamber of Commerce office.
"We just completed one for Effingham," DOT Project Manager Kyle Mote said. "We’re trying to help out rapidly growing areas in rural Georgia by showing them the long range transportation planning process. We want to help Bryan County grow the way they want to grow."
Mote said the study will continue through 2009 and result in a plan that would identify, in order of priority, the work that DOT needs to do in Bryan County between now and 2035. After the plan is created, Mote and his partners plan to discuss available funding strategies with county officials.
During the meeting, Mote laid a five-foot map of the county in front of the attending local officials and asked them to mark it up with the areas they believe need DOT work, such as road widening, paving and additional traffic lights.
And exactly what projects do local officials deem to be most important? Here are a few responses:
- RHPD Chief Billy Reynolds: "As we’ve seen recently, when Hwy. 144 was cut off at the railroad crossing, we’ve got one main artery coming off the coast. When you cut that artery off, it causes all kinds of issues. In my opinion, the highest Richmond Hill priorities are the Belfast interchange and the connection from Harris Trail to Belfast. Widening of Hwy. 144 would be awesome, but, with that, we’re still looking at one way off the coast."
- Pembroke Clerk of Works Ricky McCoy: "I would like to see the four-laning of Pembroke from Claxton to Hwy. 80. Also, we have several other areas that need attention due to safety concerns."
- County Engineer Dale Dudley: "The widening of the streets in the areas of growth, like Hwy. 144, is a definite priority. Also, there are some alternative routes from 144 to 17 through Belfast-Siding/Belfast Keller. The interchange would be great, but even without that, we need an alternate route. We’re working on it right now, in fact."
Work will begin as funding and scheduling allows, but DOT consultant Grady Smith said the completion of this plan coincides with the time that Congress is slated to discuss federal funding for transportation bills, "so timing works out really well."
The DOT is asking the public to complete a similar activity. They are requesting feedback, via www.dot.ga.gov/bryanstudy, from local residents on what Bryan road work needs to be done. A map of the area can be downloaded, which they are asking to be marked the same way they asked of the county officials and sent back to them.
"The more people that participate, the better we’ll understand this community," said DOT transportation planner Gordon Burkette. "No one knows these areas better than the people that live in these neighborhoods or work in a particular area or drive their kid down a particular street every day. Especially things like sidewalks and multi-use trails – where should they connect to; what would make them work better? Also, making sure that safety issues are addressed. Is there a blind corner that continues to be a hazard? Those are the kinds of things we want to identify."
Burkette said this project will work in conjunction with the recently completed Bryan County Comprehensive Land Use Plan, which identifies many of the wants and needs of the citizens of Bryan County as growth commences.