Last week’s Cartersville-Bartow County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) meeting centered around a brief presentation from Tim Preece, a transportation planning manager for the civil engineering firm VHB.
Preece’s firm was selected to help the MPO update its 2050 Long-Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) earlier this year.
“There’s a lot of data in here that needs to be updated,” he said. “Projects have been constructed or are under construction, and obviously we will be looking at what other needs do we have … obviously, there’s certain requirements that have to be met in the process, in terms of the data, the analysis, the coordination and the outreach, so that will be happening.”
The work on the LRTP, however, won’t just be a standard update, Preece said. He said he sees it as an opportunity to truly improve the MPO’s master plan, complete with the addition of adopted performance measures and the inclusion of new feasibility studies.
“Some of our design folks will be helping us with project concepts, constructibility reviews and cost estimates, and several folks will be helping us coordinate and then review the model output with the [Georgia Department of Transportation] folks,” he said. “We have two other firms that are sub-consultants to us — Moreland Altobelli’s Todd Long is going to help us with the financial analysis and the revenue forecasting side, and then we have some specialists on the performance measure side.”
He said the primary tasks for the 2050 LRTP are updating data, maps and travel demand forecasting models, as well as developing outreach strategies.
“We’re going to look at some potential additional upgrades, whether they’re additional projects or maybe some refinements to some projects that have been on the books for a while,” he said. “Also, since the first plan was done, House Bill 170 was passed, so the funding picture has changed a lot. We’ll do our homework and then we will coordinate with GDOT and look at what the revenue side is … suffice to say, there are more transportation dollars in the State now than there was four years ago, when this plan was done.”
The plan, Preece said, will certainly place a greater emphasis on freight traffic projections.
“We also want to look at some of the new industries that have recently been built and are planned to be built, particularly the industrial district in Cass-White,” he said. “Those rooftops weren’t there when the first plan was done … we want to try to map out where the users of trucks/freight are and where it’s growing.”
Preece said he expects the MPO to have more available funding for this update than the previous incarnation of the LRTP. He also said the firm will compare local growth-rate assumptions from GDOT with those generated on the local-level.
“One thing I think we want to look at from the local side is what the future funding looks like if we never pass another SPLOST, what does it look like if we continually renew the SPLOST for the next 20 years, and maybe somewhere in the middle of the road,” he said. “We want to have a feel for that and how that affects what we can afford to build.”
Population and employment data and forecasting on the project is already complete, with modeling and data collection currently underway. A first public input meeting is slated for July, with Preece expecting the 2050 “fiscally constrained network” plan developed by the end of that month.
Policy board approval of the network plan is anticipated in early August. The LRTP itself is expected to be developed throughout August and September, with a second public input meeting slated for November.
An MPO Technical Coordinating Committee evaluation of the LRTP is scheduled for January; the final plan is currently on pace for a February 2020 adoption.
MPO Transportation Planner Tom Sills also gave a few project updates at last week’s meeting. He said that a kick off meeting was held with Moreland Altobelli last week on the Cartersville railroad feasibility study, while negotiations with a “preferred consultant” for a potential Grassdale Road sidewalk project are underway.
Federal Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) project proposals, Sills said, are due June 15. “I think Emerson’s expressed some interest in that,” he said.
Meanwhile, Sills said construction is “blowing and going” on the first phase of Cass-White Road improvements. “Waterlines are being relocated, some of the initial roadbed is being laid out, we’ve got some bridge structures going,” he said.
Elsewhere in the county, he said the LakePoint Parkway Extension project recently received a contract modification to add in medians and more grading. The project, he said, is still on track to wrap up in July.
Sills concluded with an update on the Rome-Cartersville Development Corridor (RCDC), which he said possibly could be rerouted to end at Interstate 75 near the Old Grassdale Road bridge.
“We met with Beauflor the other week to see if they would be interested in having us park on their property to have the road end there at Great Valley Parkway,” he said. “They are not happy with that prospect, so I suspect the folks at GDOT are going back and redesigning the termini for that project now.”