Priorities for future transportation projects were discussed and noted March 11 at the Augusta Regional Transportation Study (ARTS) public input meeting. 

The ARTS Metropolitan Planning Organization is updating the Metropolitan Transportation Plan for 2050 and held a public input meeting to get a gauge on the public’s priorities. The meeting was held at the North Augusta Community Center and was one of seven around the area. 

“The ARTS MPO is established when a population in a region, an urbanized region, reaches 50,000 population-wise ... so from then on, all the transportation that happens within that particular region has to be reported and documented and all these different components have to come together, per the regulations handed down by DOT, the department of transportation,” said Erik Engle, senior planner with ARTS.

He said part of that process is updating the Metropolitan Transportation Plan, the roadmap – literally and figuratively – needed for transportation projects to receive funding.

Three stations were available for the public to give their input on the plan.

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North Augusta resident Faye Purcell looks at a list of transportation projects during Wednesday's meeting. 

“We’ve identified eight different goals for this MTP (Metropolitan Transportation Plan) process, like traffic congestion, safety and operations," said Christy Jeon, planner and traffic engineer with WSP, the consultant team for ARTS.

"We have different goals, but we have too many. We want them to prioritize which of the goals that are more important to you, so we asked them to pick the top five out of our eight goals and we can incorporate their feedback.” 

Attendees were given five stickers numbered 1-5 and asked to rank their top five of eight goals. Those eight are: mobility, accessibility and connectivity; (reducing) traffic congestion and delay; safety and security; maintenance and system preservation; economic vitality; environmental stewardship; land use and transportation integration; and financial feasibility.

Attendees were also given $100 worth of imaginary money, representing ARTS’ funds, and asked to divvy it up based on their priorities.

The final station available for the public was a set of maps listing all of the possible transportation projects, ranging from road widening, to transit projects, to bridge replacements.

“There are hundreds of projects right now, but we need to narrow it down to, maybe like 100, 150, so we can attach every single project with the available funding, so now they’re helping us to narrow down those projects to a financially constrained list,” Jeon said.

Libby Hodges, planning director for the city of North Augusta, said the plan is important for the city because it gives the city access to federal and state funds.

“I mean, obviously, the city’s not going to pony up $30 million for a transportation project because we don’t have that,” Hodges said.

“This is all tax money that we pay in, all the citizens around Augusta, North Augusta, everywhere all pay in, this is our opportunity to get some of that back.”

For those who weren’t able to make it to a public input meeting, ARTS has an online survey that can be accessed via futuremobility2050.com.

ARTS covers the Augusta metropolitan area and touches Aiken and Egdefield Counties in South Carolina and Richmond and Columbia Counties in Georgia. 

Follow Lindsey on Twitter at @LindseyNHodges.