published Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

Spring Place bypass project scaled back


by Kelly Jackson
Audio clip

David Ridley

CHATSWORTH, Ga. -- Officials hope that reducing the planned Spring Place bypass from four to two lanes will move the 15-year-old project forward.

The Spring Place bypass will route traffic away from the intersection of Highway 225 and Alternate Route 52. That will ease congestion near the historic Chief Vann House and town of Spring Place, said Todd Long, planning director for the Georgia Department of Transportation.

Murray County officials originally agreed they would pay for environmental studies and GDOT would pay the rest. But County Commissioner David Ridley said his county so far has spent about $1.6 million -- roughly $60,000 a year -- while GDOT hasn't started its part.

Mr. Long suggested a few weeks ago that the project's scope be reduced and said GDOT would handle everything going forward.

"Even though we haven't broke ground on this bypass, I feel like it's a win for Murray County simply because we're not having to spend (more) taxpayers' money on a project that wasn't going anywhere," said Mr. Ridley.

Mr. Long said GDOT will now seek environmental approval for the two-lane project. But, construction will depend on funding and there's no way to know when money will be available, he said.

"There's hope," said Mr. Long. "If Georgia gets additional transportation funds, which our state legislators are debating that as we speak, this would certainly be a project that's eligible for any additional funding we get from the state."

He said the two-lane road will cost less, which should speed things up.

Mr. Ridley said the price tag for the original project was about $40 million, but the planned changes cut the cost by at least half.

Officials said a two-lane route still will address traffic concerns. They also believe the two-lane bypass will bring new economic growth.

"We're looking at (the bypass) as a development tool," said County Manager Tom Starnes.

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