20-year transportation plan aims to protect ‘county’s values and rural character’

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It was a meeting intended to get public input on Fayette County’s Transportation Plan covering the next 20 years. But some of the 60 people

at the “Fayette Forward” public information session Tuesday focused as much on the West Fayetteville bypass

as on the other projected transportation needs that could take Fayette to 2030. The meeting was essentially a repeat of four others that have spanned more than a year.

The meeting was conducted by AECOM transportation consultants Joel Mann and Paul Moore. AECOM has been working with the county to help develop the 20-year Comprehensive Transportation Plan. The March 30 meeting was the fifth and final of the public information meetings.

Arranged as Tier 1, 2 and 3 projects, the 39 projects in the Tier 1 group, or at least as many of them as can be accomplished, are slated for funding over the next five years from the county’s 1-cent transportation tax and are based on the 2003 transportation document. The 5-year collection period for the 1-cent tax expired March 31.

Fayette County Public Works Director Phil Mallon told the group that the plans’ commitments included maintaining the county’s values and rural character, to position Fayette to compete with other areas for funding that might become available and to uphold the need for safety and operational improvements. Mallon added that the proposals extending to 2030 include no new large-capacity projects.

There is approximately $87.5 million currently available for the 39 Tier 1 projects.

Mann and Moore offered a sampling of projects from the 1-cent tax-funded Tier 1 projects and the many Tier 2 and 3 projects for which there is no current funding.

In all, Moore said Tier 1 projects are meant to address critical safety issues and operational efficiency, while Tier 2 projects (5-10 years out) are intended to modernize infrastructure, provide for street extensions and improve corridor operations. Tier 3 projects (10-20 years out) are expected to continue needed street extensions and to address traffic capacity additions.

Among the Tier 1 projects are bridge upgrades and replacements, turn lane installations, intersection reconfigurations, third lane additions, roundabouts and pedestrian projects such as bike paths.

One of the Tier 2 projects that may or may not come to fruition is the East Fayetteville Bypass, a project that is largely state and federally funded. Originally, included in the 1-cent tax that just expired, the East bypass had to be dropped from consideration due to the recession’s impact on those funding sources.

Moore noted during the discussion that any of the Tier 2 and 3 projects could fall by the wayside given the uncertainties of state, federal and local funding.

Residents after the presentation asked a number of questions and expressed various concerns relating to the projects. More than half the questions and concerns expressed dealt with the West Fayetteville Bypass that was approved in and funded by the recent 1-cent sales tax. Some of the comments questioned the use of Lester Road designated for Phase 3 of the bypass project while others centered on the project’s cost and the belief that it would be disruptive to the county’s rural character.

Other comments focused on issues such as the long-range plan to connect Fayette’s population centers using a system of multi-use trails and paths. Some in attendance were in favor of the idea while others were opposed.

The information provided in the meeting mirrored that provided a year ago at the Fayette Seniors Services center. Similarly to the March 27 meeting, the March 2009 event was heavily attended by those opposed to the West bypass. It was noted after that meeting that nearly all of the large group opposed to the bypass left the meeting after the bypass was discussed and did not stay to hear about the numerous countywide proposals that might be implemented over the next two decades.

The plan requires the sign-off of the county and all municipalities in coming weeks. Once approved, the plan will be forwarded to the Atlanta Regional Commission.

The plan can be viewed on the county’s website at http://www.fayettecountyga.gov/planning_and_zoning/Comprehensive_Transpo…