Public Information Meeting # 1

Georgia DOT held a Public Information Meeting Thursday, November 16, 1999, to initiate citizen input for the I-16/I-75 Improvement Project.  This meeting was the first activity of the Public Involvement Program that has been developed specifically to involve and inform local citizens about the I-16/I-75 Improvement Project.

Those attending the November meeting included citizens and representatives of local organizations ranging from government, education, recreation, business and civic groups.  Participants were able to discuss the project with Georgia DOT representatives and the project consultants.  They were also given the opportunity to provide comments by speaking directly to a court reporter or by completing a comment sheet.  A total of 71 people attended the November meeting, 65 of which submitted comments during the comment period.

Most people offered comments on more than one aspect of the project. In an effort to group similar perspectives, seven general comment categories were developed.  A total of 260 comments were taken into consideration by Georgia DOT.  Below is a brief summary of the comments received in the order of number of comments received in each category.

Issue Comment Summary Project Team Response
Of the comments received, 50 percent concerned design issues such as ingress/egress, pedestrian sensitivity, railroad considerations, signage and speed limits. The project engineering team reviewed all design comments for this extremely challenging design project.  Care will be taken to locate improvements in optimal locations that will minimize impacts to surrounding properties while maximizing mobility, signage, access and safety, with the level of environmental analysis.
Almost 19 percent of the comments received were concerning the level of environmental analysis being performed for this project.  Other concerns expressed were in regards to specific environmental areas such as floodplains, the greenway plan, historic preservation, noise barriers and the overall disruption to wildlife and the environment. It is anticipated that the level of required NEPA documentation (environmental assessment versus an EIS) will be determined within six months.  The decision, to be made through consultation between Georgia DOT and the Federal Highway Administration, will be based on a preliminary assessment of the potential impacts of the project.  With regard to potential floodplain impacts, nearly 50 percent of the project area falls with the 100-year floodplain.  Appropriate design will be included in order to minimize xx to the Ocmulgee River and to ensure that all federal and state requirements pertaining to flood regulations are met.  All historical and cultural resources are being inventoried and potential impacts assessed toward the goal of avoiding these resources where possible.  Existing noise conditions will be measured and analyzed through computer models to determine if significant impacts will occur as a result of the proposed project.  Analysis and modeling will be used to determine the need for mitigating noise impacts.  Finally, Georgia DOT is aware of the Ocmulgee Greenway Project and will consider design features that complement that project.
Project Alternative
Approximately 12 percent of the comments discussed potential alternatives to the current project including a bypass around Gray Highway and improvements to other areas of the city in addition to the proposed project. The I-16/I-75 project was put forward to address very specific challenges related to the operational deficiencies of the interchange.  Alternative corridor improvements do not address the identified need.  Instead, these types of projects are best handled in the local transportation planning process.
Traffic and Safety
Potential safety hazards and traffic issues generated 10 percent of the comments. Safety and signage considerations are of paramount importance.  The design concepts will meet all American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (ASSHTO) standards.
Community Impact
Nearly four percent of comments requested Georgia DOT be aware of the potential growth and enhancement of downtown, residential areas and the cemetery. Federal law requires that the Georgia DOT assess demographic and housing impacts, with a focus on minimizing or mitigating community impacts.  In addition, Georgia DOT is committed to coordinating with local area representatives to ensure that all community concerns and initiatives are well understood.
Public Involvement
Nearly four percent commented on public involvement, most being positive comments about current efforts.  A few were skeptical, citing past experiences. Public involvement is a strong component of this project.  Many venues have been established to inform and involve interested parties.  See the article below for more information about the public involvement program.
Consultant Qualifications
Just over one percent expressed concerns about past design problems and the ability of the engineers to use modern engineering applications. All firms on this team are pre-qualified with Georgia DOT, and were selected for this project based on their proven ability to address complex design and environmental issues.  The team exhibits a high level of professionalism, recent experience in design of similar projects and in-depth knowledge of design criteria, Georgia DOT policies and environmental procedures.

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