The goal of the process is to give an updated comprehensive transportation plan, which the county is required to have to receive federal transportation funds, to the Board of Commissioners by the end of the year, said planning consultant Andrew Smith of HNTB.
"We want to understand what your needs are," said Smith. "We want to make sure your priorities are consistent with your vision."
Miguel Valentin, deputy director of the department of general services and engineering, who is heading the process, pointed out that projections made in the current plan, which was last updated about six years ago, are already outdated. For instance, the population in Rockdale County was projected to be about 108,000 by 2010; currently the population is about 84,600.
"Now we're seeing the growth hasn't been as high. Are these still the same projects that the county needs or are there others that are more appropriate?" said Valentin. "What we're looking to do as part of this process is correlate those two. That's the focus of this exercise."
"It's not only about the problems of today, but you think ahead, ‘What is it going to look like 10 years, 20 years from now?'"
At this first public meeting, four interactive stations were set up to collect ideas and priorities from the public.
About 25 people attended the Thursday night meeting, which gave an overview of the process that began three months ago with meetings by the technical committee - planners, engineering experts, and representatives from state and county agencies, as well as a committee of stakeholders, made up of technical experts, county employees and county residents.
Attending residents expressed disappointment that there weren't more attendees and suggested ways of notifying more people, including sending out personal invitations to church, civic and social groups. Other suggestions included sending out an online survey or providing a space on the county's Web site to enter transportation suggestions.
"Obviously, we want to ask that question from as broad a spectrum as possible," said Valentin. "We want to hear all of the perspectives."
The next public meeting, scheduled for sometime in mid- to late August, will present information on current and projected conditions and collect feedback on potential improvements. The final public meeting, to be held in the fall, will be a chance to give feedback on a draft of the plan.
Minutes of the open house meeting will be available on the county's Web site, www.rockdalecounty.org