Several much anticipated road improvement projects are moving forward and with Georgia Department of Transportation funding after the county had given up hope of receiving state assistance while GDOT works out its financial troubles.
In the wake of continued budget issues which have left the transportation department with a $190 million budget deficit for Fiscal Year 2009, Newton County had not anticipated much financial assistance from the state on local projects in the near future.
The Board of Commissioners decided to move forward with several projects anyway with the hopes that their proactiveness would be looked upon favorably by GDOT.
And it appears it has. GDOT is providing funding for two local projects.
"We said to the state, ‘we'll do it.' After we designed [the Smith Store intersection improvements] they agreed to pay for it," said County Engineer Kevin Walter.
A contractor, E.R. Snell, has been selected to handle the signalization and addition of turn lanes to the intersection of Smith Store Road and Salem Road. The cost of the project, $700,000, is being picked up by GDOT. Walter said he expected construction to get underway this fall.
A second project to relocate one of the two intersections at Brown Bridge Road and Ga. Highway 212 northward is also going out to bid. That project has an estimated cost of $1 million and GDOT has said it will pick up $500,000 of the cost.
"It's very fortunate that they are agreeing to pay for these projects during these hard times," Walter said, adding that both intersections have been in need of serious improvements for some time and have been issues of concern for the BOC for four years now.
The signalization of the intersection of Ga. Highway 81 and Crowell Road however will not be receiving funding from GDOT.
"The funding for that intersection is no longer there," said County Chairman Aaron Varner at Tuesday's BOC meeting, adding that a move by GDOT to change their environmental permitting procedures from federally approved ones to state approved ones cost the department some federal funding, which would have been used for the Crowell Road intersection.
GDOT was supposed to pay the full costs of the project, which would have added a traffic signal and turn lanes to the busy intersection.
Varner told the BOC that the project was too important to the county to wait for state funding. He asked for and received board approval to move forward with the project without the state. All funding for the project is to be approved by the board.
Construction on the project is expected to cost $1 million and the acquisition of necessary right of way is expected to cost $375,000.
Walter said many of the county's thoroughfares are getting close to capacity and will soon need to be widened in order to keep pace with driver use.
"We've kept up with things in the last five years, just barely," said Walter of maintenance of the county's road infrastructure. "But if we don't start now on several projects, to be completed in five to 10 years, driving conditions are going to be a lot worse because of rising populations."