published Sunday, April 17th, 2011

Counties create transportation wish list


by Andy Johns

WISH LIST HIGHLIGHTS

• Most costly: $237,384,672, reconstruction and improvements to State Route 101 in Floyd County

• Least expensive: $800, sidewalk handrail on Highway 48 in Menlo

• Most-focused county: Dade County, whose sole listed project is a new $13 million interchange on Interstate 59

• Most requests over troubled bridges: Walker County wants to replace nine bridges at a cost of $16.6 million

• Getting wider: Fort Oglethorpe and Catoosa County asked for seven widening projects totaling $67.5 million

• Whale of a trail: $8.6 million to extend Pinhoti Trail from Floyd County to Lyerly in Chattooga County; $4.5 million for a trail on Simm’s Mountain in Chattoooga; $1.4 million for multi-use trails connecting to the Chickamauga Battlefield in Catoosa

• Well-rounded requests: A $1.7 million circle at Mount Carmel and Mitchell Bridge Road in Murray County and $3.9 million for a circle at Interstate 75, Highway 52 and College Drive in Whitfield

• All wet: Whitfield asked for a $145,000 access point on the Conasauga River at Old Mitchell Road and Murray County asked for a canoe ramp on County Road 23 into Mill Creek.

• Decked out: $3 million for a tri-level parking lot in Blue Ridge in Fannin County

Source: Northwest Georgia Regional Commission


REQUESTS BY COUNTY

Bartow: $225 million

Catoosa: $69 million

Chattooga: $16 million

Dade: $13 million

Fannin: $136 million

Floyd: $673 million

Gilmer: $52 million

Gordon: $137 million

Haralson: $92 million

Murray: $216 million

Paulding: $312 million

Pickens: $147 million

Polk: $232 million

Walker: $37 million

Whitfield: $227 million

Other: $26 million

Source: Northwest Georgia Regional Commission

Widening projects, bridge replacements and bypasses make up a portion of Northwest Georgia’s 10-year transportation wish list, which would go into effect if voters next year approve an extra 1 cent sales tax.

The list, released Thursday, includes 288 projects and $2.6 billion worth of funding, including $715 million for the seven counties in extreme Northwest Georgia.

It will go to the Georgia Department of Transportation for review before it is returned to regional officials for final edits. Voters can review the final list before next year’s referendum.

“It will be the best thing that ever happened to us in terms of roads and bridges,” said Ted Rumley, Dade County Commission chairman.

Dade officials asked for a new interchange on Interstate 59 that would provide a “gateway to the industrial park” north of Trenton.

The list was prepared by members of the Regional Transportation Roundtable, which includes a commissioner and one city mayor from each county. Across the region, projects range from an $800 handrail on a sidewalk in Menlo to a $237 million highway reconstruction between Rome and Rockmart.

David Kenemer, principal planner for the regional commission, said the tax is expected to generate $1.2 billion over 10 years, so not all of the projects will make the final list.

The list “gives you a dollar figure to look at,” Rumley said, though passage of the tax measure isn’t assured.

The regional commission serves 15 counties and 49 cities, the area in which the tax would be added if it is approved. Other regions across the state will vote on similar taxes.

PROJECT SPECS

The preliminary document has nine bridge replacements in Walker County, including spans on Euclid, Glass Mill and Hog Jowl roads.

Walker County Coordinator David Ashburn said all nine have been inspected and were found unsuitable for heavy traffic such as school buses, which now take different routes. The state has recommended they all be replaced, he said.

In Catoosa County, widening is in vogue, and many of the projects focus on creating better north-south routes between Cloud Springs Road and Battlefield Parkway, the main east-west routes.

Officials in Whitfield County asked for $54 million to reconstruct interchanges at the Rocky Face and Carbondale exits on Interstate 75 as well as a handful of widening projects.

Whitfield’s most-expensive widening is a $42 million expansion of Route 286 to the Murray County line. Murray County, in turn, asked for $43 million to expand the same road all the way to U.S. 411 at Eton.

But some say the list doesn’t represent what is best for all of the areas.

Rossville Vice Mayor Teddy Harris said he was shocked to see what looks like a bypass of downtown Rossville on the list.

Walker County is asking for an $18.6 million “Wilson Road Connector” running west of Rossville from Highway 2 north into Tennessee. Harris calls it a “road to nowhere” and said it could divert considerable traffic away from Rossville businesses.

“Rossville needs the 45,000 cars a day,” he said, citing traffic figures on U.S. Highway 27. “Nobody in Rossville was asked about anything. If they’re making a wish list for the next 10 years, why weren’t we involved?”

Ashburn said the connector is intended to route heavy trucks away from town.

“It’s not a Rossville bypass for the general public,” he said.

Walker County is represented on the commission by Commissioner Bebe Heiskell and LaFayette Mayor Neal Florence.

Heiskell said the route could help development on the west side of state Highway 2, which the county has been trying to grow for 20 years. She said she talked with Rossville’s mayor earlier this week to share her plans, but the word may not have gotten out to all of the city’s officials.

She said most of the improvements came straight from the county road department, but after seeing the “ambitious” lists from some other counties, she wished more would have been included.

“There’s other things we should have put on there as far as I’m concerned,” she said.

about Andy Johns...

Andy began working at the Times Free Press in July 2008 as a general assignment reporter before focusing on Northwest Georgia and Georgia politics in May of 2009. Before coming to the Times Free Press, Andy worked for the Anniston Star, the Rome News Tribune and the Campus Carrier at Berry College, where he graduated with a communications degree in 2006. He is pursuing a master’s degree in business administration at the University of Tennessee ...

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