It may be another decade before the downtown Watkinsville portion of Experiment Station Road is widened but work on the remainder of the road will begin as soon as early 2021.
In any other year, the Georgia Department of Transportation would have informational meetings in advance of the project, but due to COVID-19, the state agency is seeking input virtually. A survey is up online atdot.ga.gov/AboutGDOT/publicoutreachthrough Sept. 25. After the feedback period is over, revisions may occur to the plan. If no major changes are proposed, the project will proceed to final design and construction.
This project, which involves four-laning Experiment Station Road beginning at the Watkinsville bypass and ending at Butler’s Crossing, will relieve congestion “in response to tremendous ongoing growth in the area,” according to GDOT.
The 1.16-mile portion of Experiment Station Road will be divided by a 20-foot grassed median. There will also be intersection improvements, including left-turn lanes.
The existing intersection of Experiment Station and Government Station roads will be realigned to the traffic signal at Bishop Farms Parkway in front of the University of North Georgia Oconee. This means that there will be a curved path to the J. Phil Campbell Center instead of the current straight road.
Oconee Public Works Director Jody Woodall explained that if Government Station remained in the current location, it would be a right-in/right-out intersection due to the raised median.
In 2016, University of Georgia Vice President for Government Relations Griffin Doyle objected to the realignment due to the prospect of increased traffic on Government Station Road by UNG commuters. Then-BOC Chairman Melvin Davis asked engineering firm Moreland Altobelli to re-do design work based on his negotiations with UGA. When the $19,750 bill was brought up at a BOC meeting, then-Commissioner Jim Luke said he felt blindsided.
The negotiations Davis had with UGA in 2016 will still hold true when the widening project begins. Last week, Woodall said that he is not aware of any eminent domain against UGA.
To view the map, visit oconeecounty.com/DocumentCenter/View/10001/Mars-Hill-Phase-2-Exhibit.
For more on this story, see the Sept. 17 edition of The Oconee Enterprise, on sale now at convenience stores and grocery stores and newspaper boxes throughout Oconee County. To subscribe, call (706) 769-5175 or visit the tab on our website.