The Atlanta Regional Commission this week unveiled to the county Board of Commissioners the local projects proposed for the fiscal year 2012-17 Transportation Improvement Program.
The projects include improvements to Interstate 575; highways 20, 140 and 372; and Bells Ferry Road.
"We believe we've captured the priorities of each local government," said Jane Hayse, ARC division chief for transportation planning.
The TIP allocates federal funds to construct transportation projects deemed the highest priorities in the near term of the Regional Transportation Plan.
The ARC is in the midst of drafting a 2040 RTP for the entire 18-county metro Atlanta region. Called Plan 2040, it will serve as metro Atlanta's guide to sustain the growth and development set to occur during the next 30 years.
Projects in both the TIP and Plan 2040 are now being vetted by the ARC staff with elected officials. The ARC staff will spend March making final adjustments to the lists of projects, said David Haynes, short-rage program manager with ARC.
Haynes said the proposed list will be "set in stone" by early April and will go out for public feedback on May 20. After that, both plans will go through three phases of adoption in July by ARC boards. The Georgia Regional Transportation Authority will consider approval in early August.
The plan will then go to the federal government for its approval, which Hayes said could happen by Labor Day.
Projects included in the next TIP in Cherokee include the proposed HOV/high-occupancy toll lanes on I-575 from the Interstate 75 split to Sixes Road. Its part of a larger project, which also will install the lanes on I-75 from Akers Mill Road to Hickory Grove Road. Right-of-way acquisition for that project could begin next year, and construction is expected to occur between 2012 and 2015.
John Orr, senior principal planner at the ARC, said the state Department of Transportation this summer will have a public private-partnership agreement to begin installing the lanes.
Orr also noted the county will see some "progress" on the critical west-to-east thoroughfare Highway 20.
Plans are to widen Highway 20 from Highway 108/Fincher Road in Sutallee to Highway 369 near Free Home.
Right-of-way acquisition for the segment from the interstate to Scott Road is planned to commence in 2013, and construction could start in 2014.
Acquisition of right-of-way for the segment from Scott Road to Highway 369 is expected to begin in 2015 and 2016.
Preliminary engineering work for the segment between Highway 108 and I-575 is scheduled to start in 2017.
The widening of Highway 140/Hickory Flat Highway also is included in the TIP.
Right-of-way acquisition for widening the highway from I-575 to East Cherokee Drive is expected to begin in 2016. Right-of-way acquisition for widening of Highway 140 from East Cherokee Drive to Mountain Road is scheduled to start in 2014.
The widening of Bells Ferry Road also is on the list. Right-of-way acquisition for the proposed widening of the artery between Southfork Way to Victoria Road in southwest Cherokee is expected to begin in 2014.
The bridge over the Etowah River on Highway 372/Ball Ground Road also will see relief through the plan. Right-of-way acquisition for that project could begin next year and construction could start as early as 2015, Orr said.
Right-of-way acquisition is scheduled to commence in 2013 for the Industrial Drive extension from Holly Springs Parkway to Hickory Road and for the downtown pedestrian network improvements at Hickory Road and Holly Springs Parkway. Construction for the pedestrian network could start in 2015.
Long-range projects for Cherokee in the RTF include widening Bells Ferry from Victoria Road to north of Sixes Road; construction for the widening of Highway 20 from Highway 108 to I-575 and from Scott Road to Highway 369; and the Arnold Mill Extension in Woodstock from Main Street south of Ridgewalk Parkway to Arnold Mill at Neese Road.
Other projects in Cherokee on the ARC's to-do list, but which won't be funded by 2040, include constructing an I-575 interchange at Appalachian Highway at the Pickens County line and auxiliary exit-only lanes on I-575 from Hickory Flat Highway to Highway 20 and widening Highway 5 from Sixes Road and Rabbit Hill Road and Reinhardt College Parkway/Highway 140 from Lower Burris Road to Riverstone Parkway.
During their meeting with the Board of Commissioners, the ARC staff also talked about House Bill 277, which sets up a regional funding mechanism for transportation.
Voters in each of the state's 12 regions will vote in 2012 on a referendum to impose a one-cent sales tax to fund transportation projects.
Ms. Hayse said local governments' proposed project lists for the referendum are due to the ARC by March 30. A regional roundtable will develop a "constrained" list in August and after two months of public hearings, the ARC board will vote on the list on or around Oct. 15.
Board of Commissioners Chairman Buzz Ahrens revealed a potential list of local projects that could be included on the referendum, which would move their construction dates up.
The list includes: $75.4 million for widening Highway 20 from Scott Road to Highway 369; $73.4 million for widening Highway 140 from East Cherokee Drive to Mountain Road; $72.7 million widening Highway 140 from I-575 to East Cherokee Drive; $56.7 million for widening Bells Ferry Road from Southfork Way to Little River north of Victoria Road; $13 million for widening Highway 20 from I-575 to Scott Road; $9.2 million for widening the Bells Ferry Road bridge of Lake Allatoona; and $6.1 million for upgrading the Highway 372 bridge over the Etowah River and $5.6 million for upgrading the Knox Bridge Highway bridge.
Ahrens said these projects should be the "core" list to submit for approval.
Commissioner Harry Johnston said the list's projects long have been a priority for the county.
"These are the projects we've talked about for years," he said.
Possible additional local projects to be funded through the transportation sales tax include: $112.3 million for widening Highway 20 from Highway 108 in Sutallee to I-575 and $43.3 million for widening Highway 140/Reinhardt College Parkway from Lower Burris Road to Highway 5 Business Route/Riverstone Parkway.
Cherokee also could benefit from other counties' projects funded by the tax such as: the widening of Highway 20 from Highway 369/Hightower Road to Highway 317/Post Road in Forsyth County; the widening of Highway 140/Hickory Flat Highway from Mountain Road to Ranchette Road in Fulton County; and the repair of the Highway 140 bridge over Little River at the Fulton County line.
Officials from Cherokee's cities also attended this week's meeting with county and ARC officials.
Woodstock Mayor Donnie Henriques said he's glad to see "things are shifting gears" to get the bridge over Lake Allatoona repaired.
While the bridge is not in the city limits, the repairs will help city residents as school buses will be able use the route instead of using other thoroughfares.
"It affects a lot of our residents," he said.