September 14, 2010
Kevin Adderly, FHWA Project Manager, opened the meeting. He explained that FHWA had selected Cambridge Systematics to conduct the 14th Amendment Highway Study. Marc Cutler, Cambridge Systematics Project Manager, then gave an overview of the project. He explained that the study was mandated by Congress and included in SAFETEA-LU legislation. According to the statutory language of the legislation, five cities serve as control points for the corridor. These are: Augusta, GA; Macon, GA; Columbus, GA; Montgomery, AL; and Natchez, MS.
The purpose of the 14th Amendment Highway Study is to examine potential alternatives and alignments for connecting the cities listed above and to determine the cost associated with each alternative. The study will examine a range of options, ranging from a full Interstate design to incremental improvements to existing roads. At the end of the study, there will be a recommendation for next steps, potentially including environmental and planning studies and additional public involvement.
There is a companion study called the 3rd Infantry Division study, which is also included in the SAFETEA-LU legislation. That study is being done independently of the 14th Amendment Highway Study.
The Expert Working Group (EWG), as gathered at this meeting, has been established to provide data and input to the study and its recommendations. The EWG is limited in size. It includes representatives from appropriate federal agencies and nine non-federal members who represent state, regional, and metropolitan transportation agencies within the corridor.
Next, control points and sub-control points along the corridor were discussed. The project team is approaching the study by starting with the control points (i.e. cities), which the corridor must serve. Additionally, sub-control points have been identified. Sub-control points are defined as decision points where the highway could follow different alignments.
Harry Rice, PBS&J, presented an initial set of sub-control points identified by the study team to serve as a starting point for discussion of alternative alignments and design levels. The presentation was followed by an open discussion, during which, a number of insightful comments were raised by EWG members.
Several alternative route options were identified and discussed. Some of these options were added to the initial set of sub-control points for consideration as alternative alignments; others were identified by EWG members as being less attractive due to environmental constraints, highway improvement priorities, or level of service (LOS) considerations, and were dropped from further analysis.
On the matter of design alternatives, it was noted that the highway should consist of as much limited access as practicable and that environmentally sensitive areas should be taken into consideration.
Additional written comments received subsequent to the meeting are incorporated into these minutes as Addendum A.
Liz Sanford, Cambridge Systematics, led the discussion on public outreach. She noted that the primary focus of gaining input on the study was the Expert Working Group, which included FHWA Division representatives, State DOTs, and many of the MPOs along the corridor. The Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Auburn-Opelika MPO will be added to the EWG.
Several outreach options for more general public involvement were then discussed. After discussion, it was decided that speaking engagements, combined with an internet-based strategy should form the backbone of the outreach program.
It was noted that FHWA was in the process of developing a new website for this study that will include a place to submit public comments. EWG members then discussed the possibility of linking the FHWA Study website to their own.
Follow-up actions for the project team and the EWG were identified and a next meeting was subsequently set for Dec 9 at 2 PM EST (1 PM CST). The meeting will be videocast to the FHWA division offices in Atlanta, Montgomery and Jackson. EWG members can attend the meeting at any of these three sites.
Kevin Adderly thanked EWG members for their contributions and the meeting adjourned.
A copy of the PowerPoint slides for this first EWG meeting, including a presentation of initial control points and outreach options, can be obtained from Liz Sanford email@example.com.