Originally created 05/14/00

State urges input on road plans



It's the stuff roadmaps are made of: a blueprint of how Georgia's highways, railroads and bike paths will change and evolve during the next quarter of a century.

And state transportation officials say planning for the future of travel requires input from residents. That's why the Georgia Department of Transportation is holding a series of public forums across the state, including one in Augusta, to gather public input before updating the 25-year Statewide Transportation Plan.

The local forum is scheduled from 3 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at Augusta Technical Institute.

"They're not going to see out of this process if there's a road going through their back yard, but they'll have an opportunity to say anything they want to about transportation over the next 25 years," said Steven Brown, assistant administrator for statewide planning at DOT's Atlanta office. "This is citizens' opportunity to be involved in transportation in our state."

Federal law requires that each state has a long-range transportation plan. Georgia's plan was last updated in 1995 and looks to the state's transportation network to promote connectivity through access and connection to transit, buses, ports, airports, bike routes and walking trails.

The process of updating the plan takes 18 months and includes forums at 12 locations throughout the state. The information gathered at the forums will influence general transportation policy for decades, Mr. Brown said.

The statewide forums were last held in 1993, and it will be years before they will be held again, he said.

District engineers, state transportation representatives and construction consultants will be on hand to answer residents' questions about road work plans for the Augusta area and the entire state.

District engineers can speak to specific local projects, while statewide representatives will be better informed about long-range strategic planning and transit alternatives, such as commuter passenger rails, ports and even bicycle paths.

A stenographer will record residents' comments during the forum. State transportation officials will use the compiled notes to update the 25-year plan.

"It's hard to get people fired up about transportation, but we're trying to get the public involved as best we can," Mr. Brown said. "This is a big project."

Next month, officials will meet in Tennille to compile a list of specific projects that will be funded during the next three years.

This week's meeting will cover a broader range of transportation-related issues, although officials say they will be able to answer specific questions.

"What we're looking for is how we're addressing the needs of our state's residents," said David Griffith, the pre-construction engineer for District 2, the 28-county area in east-central Georgia that includes Richmond County and surrounding areas. "We're taking a look at the resources that are available to us, to make sure we're getting the best return on our investment."

Recommendations from 1995 included decreasing congestion on transportation routes; improving public transportation; providing mobility for the elderly, disabled and poor; and finding new sources for transportation funding.

Meetings planned

Transportation Improvement Program draft meetings:

University Hospital Medical Center

3121 Peach Orchard Road, Room 202

Aiken County Council chambers

736 Richland Ave. W., Suite 130

4 to 7 p.m. Monday

Statewide Transportation Plan - Augusta Forum

Augusta Technical Institute

3116 Deans Bridge Road, Building 300

3 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday

Reach Heidi Coryell at (706) 823-3215.