William Molnar, LSCOG

Lower Savannah Council of Governments Executive Director William Molnar reviews a map at the Tuesday evening planning and feedback meeting.

Public input was solicited Tuesday night for a comprehensive, long-term infrastructure and transportation plan influencing the two-state region.

Feedback was collected at the Aiken County Government Center – one of two drop-in forums that night, the other held in nearby Augusta – via interactive displays, maps and charts.

Attendees were asked to highlight where they live, work and play in the greater Aiken, Edgefield, Richmond and Columbia counties area, and were also asked to rank their transportation-related priorities, among other things.

The information provided will inform the Augusta Regional Transportation Study Metropolitan Planning Organization 2050 transportation plan. The plan, updated every five years on a rolling basis, lays out a vision of what the Augusta-Aiken area could look like in the next 10, 20 or 30 years.

"Your participation is a vital component in the transportation planning decision-making process and a necessary step in selecting projects that will be funded with federal, state and local tax dollars," a related announcement reads.

Metropolitan planning organizations are federally funded and are tasked with coordinating projects in urbanized areas of more than 50,000 residents. This planning area covers approximately 793 square miles and hundreds of thousands of people, according to the ARTS website.

Proper planning and strategy is critical to a region's successful growth, according to Oliver Page, a land use and transportation planner with the Augusta development department.

The to-be-determined blueprint addresses myriad forms and avenues of transportation – roads, highways, bridges, trails, bike paths, sidewalks and public transit, for example – and will include short-, medium- and long-range goals.

Progress has been made on 90% of the short-term tasks included in the 2040 transportation plan, according to a presentation made Tuesday night.

The 2050 plan is expected to be adopted in September 2020. Before that, though, a list of candidate projects must be developed, and more public scoping will be done.

"This is the beginning of the process," said Joel Duke, the assistant Aiken County administrator and chief development officer.

Another feedback session was scheduled for Oct. 10 in Augusta and Evans, Georgia.

Thoughts can also be shared online via survey. Comments were collected at the recent Arts in the Heart of Augusta Festival, too.

Page said input from the public, from all walks of life, is "key" to the process and is "extremely useful" in shaping the approach.

Colin Demarest covers the Savannah River Site, the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Nuclear Security Administration and government in general. Follow him on Twitter: @demarest_colin