Residents will have the opportunity to submit their thoughts on the project as well, said Cartersville Public Works Director Tommy Sanders.
“This is actually called a public information open house ... and there’ll be a court reporter there that’ll take anybody who wants to give their comments verbally. She’ll take them and there will also be a way they can give comments in writing and there will also be a form they can fill out that they can take home ... and then they’ll have until Jan. 5 to send in,” he said. “All that will be made part of the permanent record of the project. All those comments will actually be in the environmental document, and they’ll be looked at and considered as far as the design of the project and how the project proceeds.”
The project, as it stands now, calls for a four-lane divided roadway with a raised median from Old Alabama Road to State Route 61/113. A roundabout is proposed for the intersection of Douthit Ferry, Walnut Grove and Pine Grove roads. The project’s purpose, Sanders said, is to improve traffic flow through the area.
“To eliminate congestion, to make it safer. It’ll have a raised median so all the places where there’s turning movement will be controlled. The traffic will move more efficiently and thus less congestion, less fuel usage, and it’ll have a lot more capacity,” he said.
Douthit Ferry’s design volume puts it at approximately 6,000 cars per day, Sanders added. The widening project would increase that to 28,500 cars per day.
With the project still in its planning stages, Karl Lutjens, president of Southland Engineering, said feedback from Cartersville residents would assist engineers and designers as they prepare to move toward the final plans and submit them to the Department of Transportation.
“It also helps the designers on the other end to hear, at this state — this is a preliminary stage — it helps the designers or the city hear any concerns with the road from the general public. At the end of the day, it’s for the citizens. So we open it up for citizen input,” he said.
Sanders said this was the second meeting held on the widening project. The first focused on the proposed roundabout that will go in front of Cartersville Middle School. The reaction was positive, Sanders believed.
“Because it impacts the school so heavily, we first went to [Superintendent] Howard Hinesley and the school board and presented [to] them and they wanted us to roll it out to the whole school. So we sent invitations to all the parents at the school, as well as people in the area and we had a very positive response,” Sanders said. “There will be a learning curve because we’re not accustomed to going through roundabouts around here. ... But they’re so much safer because of the severity of the crashes is totally eliminated.
“Where a typical intersection you can have some severe crashes, angled crashes, the typical crashes at roundabouts are just minor fender benders — basically property damage. You almost never have injury crashes at a roundabout.”
Lutjens said federal and state laws now require municipalities to study the feasibility of using roundabouts in all intersections. When an intersection meets the necessary requirements, engineers must consider designing a roundabout. A video about how the roundabout may work will be included in the open meeting, along with drawings of how the road will look.
“When I say complete drawings, the plans are not 100 percent complete,” Lutjens said. “They’re still in preliminary, but it will depict the length of the road over an aerial photo.”
The project will be financed with an 80/20 split of federal and state funding, Sanders said. The only local money involved after planning will involve right of way acquisition.
“We were one of the last municipalities to get that deal. Now they require the locals to also participate in the construction. But the construction is not going to cost us anything, basically,” he said.
The project, which will not start before 2018 at the earliest, is part of a larger plan to create an effective ring road around Cartersville. With Interstate 75 forming the eastern road and Old Alabama Road, Douthit Ferry Road and Burnt Hickory Road forming the southern and western stretches, the circle will be complete when Burnt Hickory Road hooks into U.S. 411 via a planned connector.
“So it kind of takes that traffic, and one of the things the city has always wanted to do is reduce the truck traffic downtown,” Lutjens said. “This would provide a good opportunity to do that, or a means to do that. So if you look at it on a bigger scale, it’s not just four-laning a road. It’s four-laning a road with a plan in mind.”
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