Editor’s note: This is part one of a two-part series on road improvements. Next week, we will report on long-term goals for the Ga. 316 area.

The Oconee Board of Commissioners on Tuesday approved a $382,335 project to have a continuous right-turn lane coming off the Epps Bridge Parkway interloop in front of the Waffle House. The left-turn lane basin as motorists depart from Epps Bridge Parkway onto the Oconee Connector will also be expanded by removing a portion of the concrete median.

The contract went to Pittman Construction, which was the lowest responsive bidder. The BOC authorized a budget transfer from the fund balance to begin the project this spring. Oconee Public Works Director Woodall said the county has been working with the Georgia Department of Transportation to design a plan with the goal of reducing area accidents. 

At a BOC town hall last month, Chairman John Daniell said that area sees about three accidents per week.

During the annual State of Oconee presentation last week at the Oconee Civic Center, Daniell gave an overview of forthcoming transportation projects to members of the Oconee County Chamber of Commerce.

Imminent projects

Construction will soon begin on a widening project on the section of Hog Mountain Road from Butler’s Crossing to Welbrook Road. In subsequent phases, turn lanes would be extended, travel lines would be widened and walking paths will be added to go all the way from Butler’s Crossing to Welbrook Road. 

Phase two of the Mars Hill/Experiment Station Road widening project is going to begin construction this spring as well. The project will stop at the U.S. 441 bypass. A potential third phase of the project, which would extend to downtown Watkinsville, is currently dormant.

In November, a supplemental $107,142 agreement with Atlas Technical Consultants was requested for additional pavement evaluations, field plan reviews, culvert redesign and environmental and/or archaeological reports. Post design services in the amount of $26,000 were also required. The total additional cost of $133,142 was agreed to come out of the fund balance.

“In case you’ve forgotten about how painful it was for Mars Hill construction,” Daniell told the crowd, “you’re about to be reminded with this next section, but also be reminded of how pleasant it is to go down Mars Hill Road now.”

Daniell hopes to continue the beautification of the roadway with planting of trees.

Intersection improvements

The county also hopes to address some of the thorny intersections along Hog Mountain Road. In the near future, GDOT will be prepared to move forward on an improvement at Hog Mountain Road and Union Church Road. Because of the limited right-of-way, a traffic light is likely to be installed there. 

Daniell pointed to the county’s forthcoming collaboration with University of Georgia engineering students to brainstorm ideas for improving traffic flow and other issues along Hog Mountain Road from Union Church Road to the Butler’s Crossing intersection.

He also discussed the “very tough intersection” of Hog Mountain Road at Malcom Bridge and Rays Church roads, where at least two accidents with injuries have occurred in the past three weeks. A roundabout will eventually be placed there.

The county is providing right-of-way and engineering services, while GDOT will provide money to finance the roundabout’s construction and utility relocation.

Similarly, the county aims to address the accident-prone Hog Mountain, Rocky Branch and Snows Mill roads intersection near Rocky Branch Elementary School and North Oconee High School. In that case, the county will also handle right-of-way and engineering, with GDOT providing construction and utility relocation funds. 

Concept plans are currently being designed to improve Oconee Veterans Park’s entrance and exit access on Ga. 53. Daniell acknowledged park users’ repeated calls for improvements there, given the accidents and congested traffic during recreation soccer season. 

Additionally, the U.S. 441 and LaVista Road intersection is being reviewed by GDOT for potential intersection improvements. 

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