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Expert Working Group Meeting Minutes - December 14, 2010

The second meeting of the Expert Working Group (EWG) was held in Atlanta at 1:00pm with several members participating through webinar access. Attendees are identified to the right. The discussion centered on three major topics: the Project Control Points, the Public Involvement Plan and consideration of alternative corridors. The meeting highlights are summarized below. The Second EWG Meeting Minutes, Third EWG Meeting Minutes, and Fourth EWG Meeting Minutes are available for a more detailed understanding of the discussion.

The meeting started with a recap of the first meeting and review of the overarching principles:

Non-Federal EWG Members

Augusta-Richmond Co. Planning Commission
Coastal Region MPO (remote)
Knoxville Regional TPO
Georgia DOT (remote)
North Carolina DOT (remote)

Federal EWG Members

Appalachian Regional Commission (remote)
Eastern Federal Lands
EPA Region 4, NEPA and Wetlands
FHWA GA Division
FHWA NC Division (remote)
FHWA TN Division (remote)
National Park Service
US Army Corps of Engineers (remote)
US Fish and Wildlife Service (remote)

Project Team

ICF International
Wilbur Smith Associates

See First EWG Meeting Minutes for more information on this meeting.

The Study Area has been updated at the request of 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. There were no comments on the updated study area. See the Study Area Map for details.

Updated Control Points were presented and discussed with the EWG. Control points are endpoints of a proposed highway improvement and in this case are identified in the legislation: Savannah, Augusta and Knoxville. A control point at Lavonia was added in the contract. As suggested by the EWG, the new points are more linear as opposed to single dots, to avoid limiting the development of corridors. There was a discussion of each individual control point as summarized below.

The study team will consult with FHWA on all the comments received on control points and then revise as appropriate. The final Control Points Technical Memorandum will be available on the project website.

At the previous meeting, the EWG discussed what the Public Involvement Plan (PIP) should be philosophically. One suggestion was the use of different strategies for Phase 1 and Phase 2 with Phase 2 being more robust. The PIP has been revised to incorporate this discussion.

Key public involvement strategies will be the EWG, website, newsletters and media announcements. The website will contain the official mailbox ( which is currently available. The website should be launched in January. There was some concern about the ability to provide detailed input through the website such as providing documents or maps for consideration. The study Email address could be used for sending attachments or providing additional information if necessary. FHWA will continue to work to make the website as robust as required to support public involvement needs.

The goals of the PIP are to be consistent with local public involvement strategies; keep messages simple, focus on the legislation; and get as much public involvement as possible within the resources available. The key messages have been developed based on the input of EWG, FHWA, and the study team. See Public Involvement Plan in the Features Items section of the website.
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 on the alternative corridors and project costs tasks. The discussion proceeded through each section of the study as defined by the control points and highlighted options as well as constraints associated with each corridor.

The study team is considering a wide range of options for the proposed corridors for cost estimation purposes. 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. EWG recommendations will guide the decision making on the alternatives presented to Congress.

In the discussion of the potential corridors between Savannah and Augusta, the Savannah River Parkway and congestion on I-95 were discussed. Between Augusta and Knoxville EWG members identified the following considerations to the study team: the 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 require explanation of why another alignment was not considered instead; cost of construction and mitigation of the effects upon threatened and endangered species.

The next EWG meeting will be related to alternatives and associated costs. February is the target date for the next meeting. The final meeting will be in April/May. The meeting adjourned at 3:30pm.

Updated: 3/22/2013
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