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3rd Infantry Division Highway Corridor Study

Second Meeting of the Expert Working Group

December 14, 2010, 1pm-4pm
FHWA GA Division Office, Atlanta

Attendees:

(see attached sign-in sheet for individual names)

Non-Federal EWG Members

Federal EWG Members

Project Team

Individual Names:

Greeting and Introductions

The second meeting of the Expert Working Group for the 3rd Infantry Division Highway Corridor Study was held on December 14, 2010, from 1:00pm to 3:30pm at the FHWA Georgia Division office in Atlanta. The purpose of the meeting was to review the updated study area and control points; discuss the status of the public involvement and data collection tasks; and to review and discuss illustrative corridors. The following is a summary of discussion topics, questions, and comments.

Greeting and Introductions

John Mettille, Project Manager for the ICF Team, and Stefan Natzke, FHWA Task Monitor, opened the meeting and welcomed the participants, who then went around and introduced themselves. Non-federal representatives included the Augusta-Richmond County Planning Commission, Coastal Region MPO, North Carolina DOT, and WaysSouth. Federal representatives included FHWA HQ, FHWA Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee Divisions, Appalachian Regional Commission, Eastern Federal Lands, EPA Region 4, National Park Service, US Army Corps of Engineers, and US Fish and Wildlife Service. The meeting sign-in sheet is attached; however, the majority of the EWG members participated by remote access
John Mettille went over the agenda and handouts, and explained that the focus of the meeting would be reviewing the illustrative corridors, and discussing what corridors the EWG would like to see studied.

Recap of Previous Meeting

The meeting started with a recap of the first meeting and review of the overarching principles, which are: respect the statutory language; follow the contract and statement of work; coordinate with the EWG, agencies, and public; be consistent with FHWA guidance on major project cost estimates; be consistent with 23 CFR 450, Appendix A - Linking Planning and NEPA; stay on schedule; and submit all work products to FHWA for review and approval.

The group also reviewed "what the study is" and "what the study is not." The study is occurring in two phases. Phase 1 is underway and the end product will be what we call a Conceptual Feasibility Report, which will be used to inform Congress of the steps that would be necessary to move the project forward and provide a planning-level cost estimate of cost to construct. Phase 2 would include additional studies if the project is recommended to move forward and ultimately might be, depending on the level of effort, close to a full feasibility study.
States and MPO's are not required to implement any alternative or conduct any further analyses. The study will not result in a recommended alternative (unless directed by Congress) and will not necessarily lead to construction of any specific improvements. The study is not a traditional planning feasibility study. FHWA has guidelines for conducting feasibility studies, which this study does not fully address.

There were no comments or questions on any of the material presented up to this point, and the discussion moved on to the study area and control points.

Updated Study Area

John Mettille presented a map of the updated study area. The study area identifies the area of influence for traffic and public involvement activities. The previously bow-tie shaped area has been redefined using input from the EWG. The new study area is bounded by a ring of interstates which include: I-75, I-16, I-95, I-26,and I-40. A portion of the 14th Amendment Highway Corridor in the vicinity of Augusta, Georgia and Corridor K both occur within the study area. Corridor K is a corridor of the ARC's Appalachian Development Highway System, sections of the corridor are currently under study in North Carolina and Tennessee. There were no comments on the refined study area map, and the discussion moved on to the updated control points.

Updated Control Points

John Mettille gave a recap of the previously defined control points and presented an overall map of the revised control points. Control points are endpoints of a proposed highway improvement, indicating independent utility. Primary points are located at places identified in the legislation. The map of control points from the previous meeting included dots, one at Savannah, Augusta, Lavonia, and Knoxville. The study team came up with revised control points based on EWG input. As suggested by the EWG, the new points are more linear as opposed to single dots, to not limit the development of corridors. The team has received an email requesting that the maps correctly identify the 441 interchange, and the maps will be corrected. Each of the control point areas was then discussed in detail.

Savannah Control Point

The Savannah area control point would provide for a connection along I-95 between the east side of Fort Stewart and the Savannah River Parkway.

  1. LewisGrimm (EFL): Why stop at the Savannah River Parkway, why not extend along I-95 across the river and into South Carolina? And why stop at I-16?

John Mettille (ICF Team): The team's thoughts were that the Savannah River served as a good natural barrier; I-16 was the edge of study area border.

  1. Lewis Grimm (EFL): Given that you have I-95 as an existing high capacity Interstate facility, are there any long term proposals to the I-95 corridor to alleviate congestion issues? This would be a question for the state DOT's and the MPO's.
  2. Mark Wilkes (Savannah MPO): Long term plans for I-95 in Georgia include widening the Interstate to 8 lanes, the bridges are already built (this is a GDOT project not an MPO project).
  3. Mark Wilkes (Savannah MPO): Why stop at I-95 instead of further south to the Savannah port to serve major freight carriers?

J ohn Mettille (ICF Team): The study team was concerned about disruption in the Savannah area, so we looked at pulling the control point in further, and felt the I-95 corridor would work. We will however consider extending to the port.

  1. Mark Wilkes (Savannah MPO): The Savannah River Parkway (SR 21) interchange is very problematic; coming closer to Jimmy Deloach Parkway instead would alleviate a lot of the SR 21 issues.

Augusta Control Point

The Augusta area control point was expanded from single point based on EWG input and extends from west of Fort Gordon to the other side of the border. The point would provide for a corridor crossing I-520 around Augusta or I-20 from the western edge of Augusta to a point just west of Fort Gordon. The team is coordinating with the 14th Amendment Highway study team, and will look at the relationship of the two corridors (14th and 3rd ).

  1. Paul Decamp (Augusta MPO): Looks reasonable to us.

Lavonia Control Point

The Lavonia area control point is along I-85 from west of the Greenville Bypass (south side of Greenville) to the US 441 Interchange (just north of Commerce).

  1. Jim Grode (WaysSouth): If the control point is now extended longer than a single point, why not extend through the entire width of study area? It wouldn't be possible to tie into existing I-26 as currently shown.

John Mettille (ICF Team): The study team thought the traffic would be best served if the Atlanta and Greenville areas were avoided. It also provides flexibility in looking at potential corridors to the north.

  1. Donnie Brew (FHWA NC): From our perspective, it seems arbitrary that Lavonia is selected at all, regardless of the length; anything that limits the ability to use existing Interstate infrastructure seems arbitrary.

John Mettille (ICF team): Lavonia was added to the study scope of work to help focus the study of potential corridors.
Martin Weiss (ICF team): Lavonia is in the scope of work, and the study's overarching principles say we will stay true to the scope. This is not an area study, but a corridor study.
John Mettille (ICF team): It will facilitate the report to Congress if the study is focused.

Knoxville Control Point

The Knoxville area control point would connect to an existing limited access highway in Knoxville. John Mettille explaned that the team looked at I-75 south of the I-40 split for options for connecting to existing Interstate, and to facilitate sensitivity to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

  1. Lewis Grimm (EFL): All of the other control points are long, linear sections, with the exception of Knoxville; from a consistency standpoint, why wouldn't we start somewhere along I-75 up to I-40, follow I-40 east to Knoxville, then over to where I-40 splits off to go to the mountains. We should use the same geography for consistency. I think it could be wider and more linear like the others, and wider than just connecting the dots currently shown.

John Mettille (ICF team): The study team will consult with FHWA on all the comments received on control points and then revise as appropriate.
There were no additional comments on the control points. John Mettille stated that the study team would consult with FHWA on all the comments received on control points and then revise as appropriate. The discussion then moved on to the Public Involvement Plan.

Public Involvement Plan

John Mettille discussed the updates to the Public Involvement Plan. At the previous meeting, the EWG discussed what the PIP should be philosophically. One of the suggestions was that different strategies be used for phase 1 and phase 2, and that perhaps phase 2 could be more robust. The PIP has been revised as follows:

The key PI strategies will be the EWG, website, newsletters and media announcements. The website will soon go live. The official mailbox (3rdinfantry@dot.gov) is already up and running. By the first of the year, the website should be up.

The goals of the PIP are to be consistent with local PI strategies; keep message simple, focus on legislation; and get as much PI as possible with the resources available.
The key messages have been developed based on the input of EWG, FHWA, and ICF team. The team is working with Planning Communities (PI firm). The goal is to keep reinforcing these messages, which are:

  1. Lewis Grimm (EFL): I recall from the first meeting for both corridors, there was some discussion about what the purpose of these studies are other than a congressman including language in bill; has there been any more discussion among the team and FHWA on including a few sentences about what the purpose of the project is? It is a message I think a lot of people in the study area would be interested in.

John Mettille (ICF team): There have been discussions on the purpose of the study, which is focused on the congressional mandate to present a report to congress. We talked about the conceptual feasibility study's purpose being to document what steps are needed for the project to move forward. One element of that could be developing the purpose and need statement, it would be one of the first things to do. If the project was to move forward, one of the steps to complete would be development of a problem statement and P&N.

Stefan Natzke (FHWA): This is almost an academic study, documenting the basic steps for constructing a highway, not a feasibility study of a corridor. What we're doing is very limited in scope. It's a study of costs; we're not recommending an alternative, but recommending a menu of alternatives.

Martin Weiss (ICF team): I was involved in a feasibility study at one time, and as part of that, we did develop a purpose and need, but it was a congressionally designated future Interstate and, in addition, several States were advancing segments of independent utility consistent with the longer corridor. This is not that. May not be an appropriate time to develop Purpose and Needstatement (P&N).

John Mettille (ICF team): The report to congress would indicate that development of a problem statement and P&N is one of the future steps that would be required, but not necessarily done as part of that report.

The primary stakeholder involvement and public information activities are the EWG and FHWA website. Recommendations for public involvement are to support Tasks 1 through 11, focusing on Task 5 (control points) and in particular Task 7 (alignments and designs), and to supplement options sub-studies (in Phase 2, beyond June 2011).

The FHWA website is being updated. Once the website is up and running, the new link will be sent out to the members of the EWG. There will be a new main page, which will include: Introduction, The Corridors, Statutory Language, FAQs, and a new Study Structure Page, plus links to both studies (3rd Infantry and 14th amendment). Content will include: Fact Sheet; Overview and Scope; Project Schedule/Calendar; EWG; Data Sources; Control Points; Study alignments; Design Levels; Cost Estimates; Draft Report; Final Report; and Comments/Contact (form based with a subject field so the public can select from the pool of topic areas).

Stefan Natzke (FHWA HQ): We are just working on final tweaks to the site, it's ready for content.

  1. Jim Grode (WaysSouth): I'm confused about the commenting format, forms are limited; I suggest making it feasible to include attachments, etc., so that comments are not restricted by character limits.
  2. Kevin Adderly (FHWA): It is a form, with drop down boxes for topics, etc. We can't collect personal information, but the public will be able to provide contact information so that someone can get back to them to discuss issues in more detail. The study Email address could be used for sending attachments.

Stefan Natzke (FHWA): We can work with IT to work out any kinks or improve it if possible.

Database/Reports Inventory
John Mettille provided an update on the status of the data collection efforts, and requested that the EWG look over the database/reports inventory list and send an email with additions, etc., and list will be updated accordingly. There were no EWG comments related to the data collection task.

Illustrative Corridors
Maps of illustrative corridors were presented to the EWG as a starting point for discussion purposes. The study team would like to get input from the EWG on potential corridors and resource sensitivity, to help focus Tasks 7 and 8. Sensitive areas are currently based on spatial data, but the EWG is encouraged to provide input on constraints/avoids. It was suggested that phone participants send mark ups of the maps .

The group is not limited to considering the corridors shown, they are wide corridors. The team is seeking input on things such as, whether or not the group would like for the team to consider more use of existing highways, what type of access the group would like to see, etc.

Corridor design levels were reviewed with the EWG. At least one alternative in each segment will include Interstate standard design level, substantial portions of existing highways, and for Lavonia to Knoxville, at least one alternative will be outside of GSMNP. An alternative could include an alignment with a mix of design levels.

Savannah to Augusta Corridors

The discussion started with review of the four illustrative corridors between Savannah and Augusta.

  1. Jeff Welch (Knoxville MPO): What is the status of the Savannah River Parkway?
  2. Jamie Higgins (EPA): Portions of it have been built.

John Mettille (ICF team): The team will coordination with GDOT on the status of the segments and provide updates to the group as available.

  1. Mark Wilkes (Savannah MPO): North of Rincon, the SR 21 corridor is a 4-lane rural divided highway; between Rincon and I-95, it is more mixed and urban, fairly congested. Not sure of GDOT's plans for the corridor, but it would probably not be a good corridor to consider.
  2. Paul DeCamp (Augusta MPO): I am familiar with portions of the Savannah River Parkway, a good bit is 4-lane now b/w Augusta and Savannah. It comes into Augusta on SR 25, is 4-lane all the way from central Augusta to Waynesboro, a bypass around Waynesboro, 4-lane into Statesboro, and a Statesboro bypass is partially complete. This should be confirmed with GDOT.

John Mettille (ICF team): Illustrative corridor 1 follows US 1, using a mix of existing and new.

  1. Lewis Grimm (EFL): I think we need consideration of access east of I-95.
  2. Mark Wilkes (Savannah MPO): There is a freight corridor already planned under the Governor's bond program, going as far north as Jimmy Deloach Parkway. I think this would be a good connection point.
  3. Lewis Grimm (EFL): Do you want comments on just new location, or a combination?

John Mettille (ICF team): All of the above.

  1. Lewis Grimm (EFL): Using an existing facilities alignment that would give you a far eastern bypass of Augusta, would there be any consideration to beginning in Savannah, proceeding north along the RR corridor that parallels route 119/363? It would be more of a South Carolina north-south concept, as opposed to a north-south all in Georgia. It would be farther east of Augusta, but would connect to I-20 and have Interstate level access into Augusta. Theoretically, you have all the major routes that could be alternatives. There is also a potential to connect corridors 1 and 2 using US 78 as the link.
  2. Jeff Welch (Knoxville MPO): What is the Savannah River Plant? Nuclear DOE owned property? Not something with a redevelopment potential, not much need for the corridor to go that way.
  3. Kent Cochran (NPS): Why not have a corridor from Millen that uses existing as much as possible instead of new location? SR 21 or 17 down into savannah?
  4. Lewis Grimm (EFL): Some level of development will exist on all of the existing routes; could be better to go new location.
  5. FHWA remote access: you mentioned widening existing facilities, what are you cost estimating based on?

John Mettille (ICF team): We are looking at various options - at least one at Interstate design level, one utilizing existing highway upgrade; it could be anything, it could be a super 2 if that's what the EWG recommends.

Stefan Natzke (FHWA): Super 2 is a two-lane roadway, with 3-lane section where needed. Cheaper than 4-lane, safer than 2-lane; shoulders are paved, and pavement is at a depth enough to support trucks.

John Mettille (ICF team): To recap - use of 21 or 17 to millen, 305 to Louisville; this would be consistent with 14th Amendment Highway study corridor and the 3rd Infantry Highway study control point. Also talked about utilizing existing as much as possible. Using I-26, outside of study area; 119/363 in South Carolina.

  1. FHWA remote access: Have you considered I-520 around Augusta, to 121 in SC, over to I-26?
  2. Lewis Grimm (EFL): is there any desired buffer for avoiding constraints, any general design philosophy?

John Mettille (ICF Team): we have used that approach in the NEPA process, it gives flexibility; at this conceptual stage, not sure about buffer zones; would be a good step to include in the report.

Augusta to Knoxville Corridors

There were no more comments on the southern portion (Savannah to Augusta), and the discussion moved on to the northern five illustrative corridors from Augusta to Knoxville.
John Mettille (ICF team): the scope has us studying corridors inside GSMNP, with at least one outside, but we have flipped it around and have only one in the park and the rest outside.

  1. Jamie Higgins (EPA): these corridors impact a lot of wilderness areas, which are impossible to go through (significant hurdle); most DOT's try to avoid them; a couple new ones have been recently added in TN.
  2. Lewis Grimm (EFL): Wilderness areas can be treated like a park.
  3. Jim Grode (WaysSouth): Congress has to de-designate the area as wilderness for a road to go through; Cumberland Island is the only example, and that caused a lot of controversy.
  4. Jamie Higgins (EPA): Endangered species, bear reserves are also a concern.

Martin Weiss (ICF team): keep in mind, the study team does not need five separate alignments; e.g., could have one alignment with several different design options.
John Mettille (ICF team): the team tried to avoid as many water features as possible, avoided corridors requiring major structures.

  1. Jim Grode (WaysSouth): Corridors 3, 4, and 5 (not sure about 2) would all at some point have to cross a mountain range with a ridgeline over 5,000 feet.
  2. USFWS in NC (transportation liaison): I have concerns about using I-26 into Asheville to I-40, there are serious limitations to this corridor. I-26 is currently a 4-lane needing lots of improvements. Pigeon Gorge would be problematic. Corridor K will require 3000-ft tunnel, part of which would pass under the Appalachian Trail, very controversial; going over Snowbird Mountains would be a challenge, and very costly.
  3. Lewis Grimm (EFL): Cost is not really an issue right now, just reporting on the options.
  4. Jamie Higgins (EPA): Consider pyritic rock, big concern in Corridor K.
  5. USFWS in NC (transportation liaison): Money could make anything possible, but just not practical; undesirable from environmental standpoint.
  6. Kent Cochran (NPS): as opposed to the lower sections, where existing roadway was used, these corridor don't; recommend using more existing.

John Mettille (ICF team): To recap - difficulty of dealing with I-26 in Asheville area, and difficulty keeping I-40 open; cost and practicality; density of environmentally sensitive areas (parks, wilderness); mountain issues/topography; look at more options that utilize existing roadway network; look at correcting issues currently on those routes; using more than one option in a potential corridor, would have to explain why didn't move to another alignment instead; cost of construction and mitigation of the effects upon threatened and endangered species .

  1. FHWA remote access: Once Savannah River Parkway is complete, assume connection using existing is now available? Savannah River Parkway to Augusta, Augusta to Atlanta to Knoxville. Doesn't that address the legislative language?

Martin Weiss (ICF team): Section 1927, says carry out a study and submit report that describes steps and funding to construct highway; one of the project designations in SAFETEA-LU Section 1702, which funds the work in Section 1927, requires a study of "new" Interstate linking savannah...; one alternative has to have at least some new Interstate, but we also have alternatives, including one alternative that uses substantial portions of existing highways.

  1. Lewis Grimm (EFL): question to pose to FHWA task manager, what is HQ definition of "some" new Interstate? 5 miles? 50 miles?

Stefan Natzke (FHWA): There are standards for what elements need to be there for Interstate designation (these are in 23 U.S.C. Section 103(c)).

  1. NC DOT: Corridors 3 and 4 in the northern section will be controversial; 4 could be relocated to 441 from Franklin into NC, which is existing and already some 4-lane.

John Mettille (ICF team): if anyone on the phone would like clarification on corridor discussions, email me or Michelle. Another recap of north - use existing more; environmental avoidance will drive corridors, influence steps and costs.

Closeout

John Mettille (ICF team): The next EWG meeting will be related to Tasks 7 and 8. Will be working with GIS and engineering staff on corridor analysis and design.
Stefan Natzke (FHWA): How did this meeting format work? Suggestions for improving? Potential dates for next meeting?
Several participants mentioned the considerable phone issues; suggestion to not use the same phone service provider the next time.
Next meeting, sooner than 3 months, February is the target date for the next meeting, team will send a save the date, and request roster for in person vs. telephone. The final meeting will be in April/May.

  1. Lewis Grimm (EFL): Deadline for comments?

John Mettille (ICF team): middle of next week would be good for map markups.
Stefan Natzke (FHWA): no critical cut-off date for the tech memo comments.

  1. Jerry Ziewitz (USFWS): Suggest using an online scheduling tool for checking availability for next meeting.

The meeting adjourned at 3:30pm.

Updated: 03/22/2013
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