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Posted: February 18, 2011 1:00 a.m.

County mulls roads for 2011 SPLOST

Newton County has hundreds of millions of dollars in road projects it wants to complete over the next several years, but it must choose $17.28 million worth of projects to complete with SPLOST funds if the 2011 SPLOST is passed in March.

The Board of Commissioners reviewed key elements of the county's comprehensive transportation plan Tuesday night at a work session, in an effort to decide which projects should be paid for with SPLOST funds. The 130-plus page comprehensive transportation plan describes how the county wants to improve transportation in the next several years.

Chairman Kathy Morgan focused on Tuesday on the county' five-year plan and its list of critical projects. The seven critical projects alone, including widening of Brown Bridge, Covington Bypass, Crowell and Salem roads, would cost $116 million, with about $41 million of that being local money, while the state or federal government would pay for the rest.

The mid-range and long-range projects have an estimated $448 million worth of local match money, according to the plan. The annual budget of the county's public works department, which is responsible for road repairs and improvements, is $4 million.

The board did not approve a list of roads Tuesday night. Chairman Morgan will compile a list containing $17.28 million in road projects and present it to the board later, though it may not be before the March 15 vote.

County attorney Jenny Carter said the board does not have to choose a list before the SPLOST election. The language "road, street, bridge and transportation projects for Newton County," which appears on the ballot, is specific enough at this time.

According to county clerks from Bartow, Columbia and Henry counties, which are similar in size to Newton County, all of those counties compile a list of road projects ahead of time.

District 1 Commissioner Mort Ewing said he would like Morgan to choose road projects on the county's critical list, and to choose projects on which the county has already started work, including preliminary designs. He said he was troubled by the state’s tendency constantly to delay providing promised funding for critical projects.

Ga. 81, Crowell Road intersection to be improved

In related news, the county has about $5 million of remaining, unused 2005 SPLOST transportation money, and the majority of it will go to improve the 4-way stop intersection of Crowell Road and Ga. Highway 81.

Cars routinely back up in all directions during rush-hour traffic. Design work for the project is still receiving final state approval, and an environmental assessment will not be completed for 8 to 12 months.

Porterdale has approved the site’s design and will contribute $300,000 to the project’s nearly $4 million price tag.

The board also approved improvements to Alcovy Trestle and Gaither roads. Alcovy Trestle Road where it meets River Cove Road is often mistaken for the entrance ramp onto Interstate 20 at exit 98. Drivers then attempt to reverse back to Ga. Highway 11, causing accidents or near accidents, Morgan said.

The projects will cost $7 million, but Morgan hopes the county will receive additional state funding.

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