Experiment Station Road will one day be widened south of Butler’s Crossing.
A Transportation Task Force, whose members were appointed by the Board of Commissioners, met last week to discuss long-range transportation plans.
Currently, two intersection improvement projects are underway at different points along Mars Hill Road. The first is the roundabout at Mars Hill and Malcom Bridge roads, and the second is the traffic light installation at Rocky Branch, Mars Hill and Virgil Langford roads.
Both projects are in their final asphalt paving phases and will be complete within two to three weeks, according to Director of Public Works Jody Woodall.
Future projects dubbed “Mars Hill Phase Two” and “Mars Hill Phase Three” will continue the two-to-four-lane widening that had been done along that road in 2018.
Phase two will start at the Butler’s Crossing intersection, where the previous widening ended, and go along Ga. 53 until its intersection with U.S. 441. Woodall said that the construction contract for this phase will be let out in January 2021.
Subsequently, phase three will finish widening all the way to North Main Street, but there is no set timeline for this project.
The Georgia Department of Transportation is also planning future two-to-four-lane widening projects for U.S. 441. GDOT will acquire right-of-way for the project in February 2021, and construction is expected to start during the summer of 2023.
Woodall said that GDOT also has plans to widen U.S. 441 between the highway’s intersection with Ga. 24 and the town of Bishop.
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During the task force meeting, Chairman Daniell reiterated the importance of addressing Oconee County’s congested, accident-prone intersections.
Per the study, the most-prioritized intersection is the Ga. 316 intersection with the Oconee Connector.
Woodall explained that GDOT just started working on plans to convert the existing at-grade intersection there into an interchange. Ga. 316 would be the mainline road with ramps coming off it, and the resulting ramp intersection would be either stop-controlled or signalized.
Also listed as a priority in the study was the Epps Bridge Parkway interchange with the 10 Loop.
“There seems to be a large number of accidents there, so we’re looking at a number of improvements to minimize those,” Woodall said.
Another problematic spot nearby is the Epps Bridge intersection with the Oconee Connector.
Woodall said that the county has already programmed a lag configuration for the left turn signals on each side of the intersection so that vehicles coming from Athens will turn after vehicles coming from Oconee.
“The thought was that we could actually increase the capacity slightly and increase the flow of the traffic,” Woodall said.
He added, “The real test will be the day after Thanksgiving on probably the heaviest shopping day we have in the area.”