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DOT tries to map road growth
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Even the state Department of Transportation is looking at Effingham County’s growth.

In conjunction with consulting firm Carter and Burgess, the DOT is beginning a study of the county’s transportation issues and needs for the next 25 years.

“This is the start of the study,” said Kyle Mote of the DOT at a public meeting Thursday at Ebenezer Middle School.
The DOT has set up a Web site to take public comments and also had comment forms available at Thursday’s meeting. DOT officials expressed delight with the participation.

“We’ll have the people tell us what needs to be fixed,” said the DOT’s Matthew Fowler. “It won’t be just a wish list.”

The study, Fowler said, was generated by the boom in population Effingham has experienced already and is expected to get in the next 25 years. Projections call for the county’s population to rise to 80,000 by 2030, a gain of nearly 67 percent. Employment is expected to nearly triple to 24,000 in that same time.

Fowler said his region has included Effingham for more than seven years, and he has had more requests to study Effingham’s transportation than any other area. The DOT will forecast Effingham’s traffic volume and also look at the land use plans and how the county expects its growth to happen.

“We’ll come up with a rough idea of the number of trips each day and equate them to the number of cars and trucks,” Fowler said.

The study also will recommend possible solutions for the county’s current and future transportation needs.

“We’re going to look at what we can do,” Fowler said. “The first step is to identify what needs to be done.”

The solutions could range from widening roads to building more roads, “and not so major improvements, like intersection improvements,” Fowler added.

The transportation study is being done as a companion piece to the county’s comprehensive plan, which also addressed traffic and transportation issues in its community agenda.

One of the issues is the lack of public transportation, and the Coastal Georgia Regional Development Center is developing a system that is expected to be ready next summer for a 10-county area.

Under the plan, the CGRDC will put together a rural transit system for a 10-county area. It will be an on-demand service, meaning riders will call ahead for pickup. The DOT and the state Department of Human Resources have agreed on joint funding, with local matching funds required.

The CGRDC also is conducting a feasibility study for a vanpool system to provide vans to defined carpool groups. The vanpool system would be funded through user fees and employer contributions.

Also being looked at are ways to increase capacity for the trips between Effingham and Chatham counties on Highways 17 and 21, safety improvements on roads with high crash rates and improvement of east-west corridors to provide improved connections between Highways 17 and 21.

The study will look at ways to coordinate with Chatham County on connections of key corridors and coordination of traffic signals.

Findings of the study are expected to be ready in February and the plan is scheduled for completion in April.