County travel time ex­pected to rise

Most-traf­ficked cor­ri­dors fac­ing con­gested 2030

The Covington News - - Front Page - By Rachel Oswald

De­pend­ing on growth as­sump­tions, travel time on the county’s most traf­ficked cor­ri­dors is ex­pected to more than dou­ble by 2030.

That ex­pec­ta­tion fac­tors in ex­ist­ing and sched­uled road im­prove­ments in­clud­ing sev­eral ma­jor road-widen­ing projects.

The ma­jor­ity of fu­ture traf­fic con­ges­tion is fore­casted to take place on cor­ri­dors al­ready ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a ma­jor­ity of the county’s con­ges­tion such as Ga. High­way 36, Ga. High­way 81, Ga. High­way 212, Salem Road and Brown Bridge Road.

At a pub­lic meet­ing on the county’s Com­pre­hen­sive Trans­porta­tion Plan at the His­toric Court­house Tues­day night, the at­mos­phere was fairly glum as au­di­ence mem­bers con­tem­plated a fu­ture with even longer traf­fic wait times af­ter a pre­sen­ta­tion that in­cluded the above sta­tis­tics.

In 2007, the New­ton County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers con­tracted with URS Cor­po­ra­tion for the cre­ation of a CTP to guide county plan­ning de­ci­sions in the years to come. A Needs As­sess­ment Re­port of the county’s trans­porta­tion in­fra­struc­ture has been com­pleted by URS.

The re­port in­cludes an eval­u­a­tion of road­way safety, road­way ca­pac­ity, bi­cy­cle and pedes­trian fa­cil­i­ties, freight move­ment and land use within the county. Over­all the as­sess­ment found that an­tic­i­pated growth will over­bur­den the county’s en­tire trans­porta­tion net­work in the ar­eas of mo­bil­ity, con­nec­tiv­ity and ac­ces­si­bil­ity.

Ac­cord­ing to the as­sess­ment, Ga. High­way 36 and Ga. High­way 212 are cur­rently the county’s most con­gested cor­ri­dors with travel times rang­ing from 22 to 28 min­utes dur­ing peak evening traf­fic time. Salem Road, Brown Bridge Road and Ga. High­way 81 also have long travel times.

In com­ing up with their as­sess­ment, URS cor­po­ra­tion re­lied pri­mar­ily on two pop­u­la­tion and em­ploy­ment growth fore­casts, one used by the At­lanta Re­gional Com­mis­sion — which is par­tially fund­ing the CTP — and one used by the BOC in writ­ing New­ton County’s 2028 Com­pre­hen­sive Plan. The county’s pop­u­la­tion and em­ploy­ment fig­ures are sig­nif­i­cantly higher than those of the ARC.

Ac­cord­ing to the com­pre­hen­sive plan, the county is fore­casted to have a pop­u­la­tion of 228,200 peo­ple and an em­ploy­ment base of 86,200 by 2028.

In 2005, there were just over 200,000 car trips in the county. Fol­low­ing the ARC’s pro­jec­tion that num­ber is ex­pected to rise to more than 400,000 car trips in 2030. Fol­low­ing the county’s pop­u­la­tion pro­jec­tion, car trips would rise to 800,000 by 2030.

The as­sess­ment also pre­dicts sig­nif­i­cant in­creases in traf­fic and con­ges­tion on the west­ern side of the county es­pe­cially on roads go­ing in the east- west di­rec­tion, west of Ga. High­way 36.

Ga. High­way 36 and Ga. High­way 81 are an­tic­i­pated as hav­ing the long­est travel times in the fu­ture, more than 60 min­utes, if the county’s pop­u­la­tion model is fol­lowed. A ma­jor project to ex­pand Salem Road from two to six lanes was fac­tored into the as­sess­ment. While Salem Road’s travel time is fore­casted to grow in the fu­ture, the road- widen­ing project is ex­pected to keep travel time on the cor­ri­dor to 30 min­utes.

“ You’re see­ing more prob­lem­atic ar­eas where you gen­er­ally would think you would un­der ei­ther con­di­tion,” said Jim Brown, se­nior trans­porta­tion project man­ager for URS Cor­po­ra­tion. “ While it im­pacts in a some­what tougher way, it’s not like it’s all of a sud­den go­ing into all new ar­eas.”

The as­sess­ment also found a lack of con­nec­tiv­ity on Salem Road south of the Rock­dale County line where cul- de- sac sub­di­vi­sion de­vel­op­ments hin­der road­way con­nec­tiv­ity and driv­ers’ abil­ity to take al­ter­na­tive routes.

Truck freight traf­fic is ex­pected to in­crease by 128 per­cent from 2005 to 2030, go­ing from 7.6 mil­lion tons to 17.2 mil­lion tons. Most of the truck freight traf­fic is ex­pected on In­ter­state- 20 and its in­ter­changes, U. S. High­way 278, Salem Road and Ga. High­way 138.

While the county’s mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties were found to have an ad­e­quate sup­ply of side­walks, the as­sess­ment found side­walks sorely lack­ing in the rest of the county. Many schools lo­cated out­side of mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties were found lack­ing in side­walks.

County En­gi­neer Kevin Wal­ter said the New­ton County School Sys­tem has not helped the side­walk sit­u­a­tion with its pol­icy of bus­ing all chil­dren to school. Wal­ter said the state does not re­quire school dis­tricts to bus stu­dents if they live less than a mile from their school.

Af­ter the pre­sen­ta­tion, sev­eral mem­bers of the au­di­ence asked about the po­ten­tial of pub­lic trans­porta­tion in the county.

“ You can­not build your way out of traf­fic,” said au­di­ence mem­ber Ge­orge Stamps. “ The prob­lem can only be solved by pub­lic trans­porta­tion.”

Brown, told the au­di­ence pub­lic trans­porta­tion does ap­pear vi­able for the county. Brown said there was an op­por­tu­nity for re­gional tran­sit fund­ing in bring­ing com­muter rail to the county.

A large pop­u­la­tion older than 60 also bodes well for the po­ten­tial of pub­lic trans­porta­tion he said.

The next pub­lic meet­ing on the CTP is sched­uled for May. The fi­nal­iza­tion of the CTP is ex­pected this sum­mer.

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