published Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

Wish list identifies Georgia's highway improvement projects

PUBLIC MEETINGS

In Northwest Georgia, public meetings about the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program list will be Oct. 23 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the GDOT District 6 Office at 500 Joe Frank Parkway, Cartersville, Ga., and Nov. 1 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce at 200 Northside Drive in Carrollton, Ga.

Drivers have flattened tires on Interstate 59 where it's rough near Byrds Chapel Road south of Trenton, Ga., Dade County Executive Ted Rumley said.

So Rumley is happy that the state has identified the 11.6-mile stretch of I-59 for some $9.1 million worth of federally funded improvements.

"It's been needed for years," Rumley said of the proposed repair work. "For an interstate highway system, it's pretty bad."

Now, the only question is whether funding from the federal government will materialize.

The I-59 project is among $19 million worth of Dade County improvements on a 329-page Statewide Transportation Improvement Program wish list that was just updated by the Georgia Department of Transportation.

The grab bag of projects for all of Georgia's counties includes new road construction, bicycle and pedestrian projects, new bridges and interstate highway improvements and maintenance. The money mostly would come from the federal government with varying state and local matching funds.

But just because a project makes the list doesn't mean it's going to happen soon.

Case in point: The proposed $100 million U.S. Highway 27 bypass around Summerville, Ga.

"That project's been on the books for 30 years," Chattooga County Sole Commissioner Jason Winters said.

Winters hopes a couple of other projects on the list proceed: a $4.1 million replacement of a bridge on Taliaferro Springs Road over the Chattooga River and a $2.9 million replacement of the state Route 48 bridge over the east fork of the Little River northeast of Menlo, Ga.

Those projects would have been funded under the failed statewide multibillion-dollar transportation special purpose local option sales tax -- better known as TSPLOST.

"We really do not have the [county] funds available to replace these [bridges]," Winters said. "If there's a prospect of federal funding, that's great."

Walker County work on the list includes $1.4 million for traffic signal improvements at a total of 13 locations on U.S. 27 and state Routes 2, 136 and 146.

Walker County Coordinator David Ashburn said federal requirements drive up costs for roads.

For example, he said intersections with federally funded traffic lights require crosswalks with walk signals and handicapped-accessible curbs — even if there's no sidewalk nearby.

"Every red light has that now, [even when] there's no sidewalk to connect to it," Ashburn said. "That's why, when the federal government's involved, it costs three times as much to do anything."

He cited Battlefield Parkway as an example of a highway with crosswalks "that just go to nothing."

about Tim Omarzu...

Tim Omarzu covers Catoosa and Walker counties for the Times Free Press. Omarzu is a longtime journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers in Michigan, Nevada and California. Stories he's covered include crime in blighted parts of metro Detroit and Reno, Nev.; environmental activists tree-sitting in California's Sierra Nevada foothills; attempts by the Michigan Militia to take over a township¹s government in northern Michigan. A native of Michigan, ...

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