Many local residents filed into the Clarence Smith Conference Center at Moultrie Technical College Tifton Campus Thursday evening for a public information open house for the proposed south Tifton bypass from SR 520/US 82 West to SR 35/US 319 East. This meeting was held as part of a study conducted by the Georgia Department of Transportation.
Before entering the conference room, residents were given a handout package containing a project description, a location map, a frequently asked questions handout and a comment card. During the open house, residents had the opportunity to watch a project video providing some background on the proposed project and view displays of the proposed project. GDOT representatives were available to discuss the project and answer any questions. No formal presentation was held.
Also, a court reporter was on hand for those who wanted to make a verbal statement about the project. In addition, locals were able to complete a comment card. Those who were unable to attend the open house can send in written comments about the project until Sept. 3. They should be sent to Glenn Bowman, P.E., State Environmental Administrator, Georgia Department of Transportation, 600 West Peachtree St. N.W., 16th Floor, Atlanta, Ga. 30308.
Comments can also be made by visiting www.dot.ga.gov. On the home page, choose “Information Center” and then “Public Outreach.” Next, select “Tift” as the county and choose “Go.” A list of active DOT projects in the county will appear. Select the “South Tifton Bypass” to view. Click on “Comment” to complete the submission form. All comments will be made a part of the project record.
According to District Three Communications Officer Kimberly Larson, the purpose of the open house was to get feedback from the public and local officials.
“We wanted to come back to the public and present an alternative for the truck bypass,” she said. “Local officials had requested that we remove truck traffic from downtown, or present them with an idea. So, that’s what we’ve done.”
She said they’re trying to move traffic to the south of Tifton and hopefully help officials with their development of commercial growth on the south side.
According to GDOT, in the spring of 2010, to address the need for truck traffic relief on SR 520/US 82 through Tifton, they began evaluating alternatives to improve that area, as well as bypass alternatives to the north and to the south of the existing alignment. To assist with the effort, a Citizens Advisory Committee was formed comprised of local government representatives, community organization representatives, business representatives and area residents.
A public information open house was held in May 2011 to present the project and collect public input. Based upon feedback from the committee, input heard at the 2011 PIOH and results from the environmental studies, a preferred alternate emerged and was presented at Thursday’s open house.
The alternate is known as the Orange Alternate, which would construct a Tifton bypass south of the city of Tifton using portions of the existing county roads Carpenter Road, Southwell Boulevard, Tifton-Eldorado Road and New River Church Road and new location for a total project length of 9.1 miles.
The Orange Alternate would begin at the intersection of SR 520/US 82 and Carpenter Road, west of the city of Tifton, and would end at the intersection of SR 35/US 319 and New River Church Road, east of the city of Tifton. It would primarily consist of a two-lane facility with variable turn lanes. The section between Tech Drive, just west of Interstate 75, and Vernon Drive/Magnolia Industrial Boulevard, east of US 41, would consist of a four-lane facility because of the higher existing traffic volumes on this section.
The proposed bypass would utilize both rural design with grassed shoulders and drainage ditches and urban design with curb-and-gutter and closed drainage systems. The shoulder section proposed for a particular area would depend on the adjacent land use.
The Gazette reported in a previous article that in June, residents who live in the South Carpenter Road area filled the Tift County Commission chambers to express their concerns regarding the bypass, which would impact several neighborhoods, including Fox Hills (61 parcels of land), Fox Hills Estates (25 parcels), Quail Hollow (31 parcels), Hunter's Creek (37 parcels) and Deer Run (56 parcels). Also affected would be Cove at Willow Creek, which has 76 parcels of land, currently under development, according to C. Wade Clark, who spoke for the group of residents.
Clark told commissioners at that meeting residents in those neighborhoods were opposed to “any kind of bypass to go down Carpenter Road,” adding they felt it would diminish property values, and negatively affect residential peace and tranquility. County commissioners have penned a letter, which has been sent to GDOT, telling the state the commission will not support a bypass on Carpenter Road. Tift County Manager Jim Carter said the sentiment is still intact.
Larson said Thursday’s open house was the second meeting held by GDOT for the public.
“There’s been several more meetings with the stakeholders and property owners who would be affected by any route that we propose,” she said. “We’ll go ahead and start meeting with them early in the process so that they’re not surprised by anything.”
So, residents may be wondering, what’s next?
Larson said all of the comments left at Thursday’s open house and any submitted comments will be compiled, and GDOT will come back to local officials and say “here’s what we’ve heard. Now, let’s put our heads together and figure out where we go from here.”
“With the officials coming to us and asking for it (the bypass), we’re just trying to respond to the county’s request. Apparently, maybe they have heard from some of their constituents that they don’t like the options that we’re coming with, so it’s a give and take and that’s where we’ve come to — is this a viable option, what’s the feasibility of us putting the bypass where we’re proposing tonight verses any other alternatives we have? It’s really a brainstorming or idea sharing so that we can come back together and see what our next step will be both as local officials and as GDOT,” Larson advised.
She added Thursday’s open house was not the end of it all. Another meeting may be held if they come back with another alternative. If there’s no solution, there will be no bypass.
The displays and plans will be available for review for 10 days after the public information open house at the GDOT District Four Office located at 710 W. Second St., Tifton. A copy of all comments received will be available for public review at this same location and at the GDOT’s Office of Environmental Services in Atlanta as soon as compilation is completed.
To contact reporter Latasha Ford, call 382-4321.