Newton County’s Comprehensive Transportation Plan includes nearly $1 billion in road improvement projects for the county, many of them expensive road-widening projects in the western half of the county.
After nearly a year and a half of work and study, the county’s CTP was approved by the Board of Commissioners at their Tuesday night meeting. The plan is meant to serve as a guide for the board over the next several decades as they decide which road projects should secure priority funding and as a promotion tool to the Georgia Department of Transportation to demonstrate that the county has taken proactive steps on transportation issues.
“We got excellent community interest and citizen participation,” said Jim Brown, senior transportation project manager for URS Corporation, the company that authored the CTP. “I think it leaves an excellent foundation or blueprint for the county to proceed in a methodical way.”
The CTP outlines five road projects that have been labeled as critical for the county. These five critical need projects have an estimated total price tag of $103.2 million. They are, in order of priority:
• The widening of Brown Bridge Road to four lanes from Salem Road to Crowell Road, a project which has an estimated cost of $13.5 million.
• The widening of Crowell Road to four lanes from Brown Bridge Road to Interstate 20, which has an estimated cost of $12.2 million.
• The widening of the East Covington Bypass to four lanes from U.S. Highway 278 to Ga. Highway 36, which has an estimated cost of $14.1 million.
• The upgrading of Industrial Boulevard to three lanes from U.S. Highway 278 to the Covington Bypass – project cost of $7 million.
• The widening of Salem Road to six lanes from Brown Bridge Road to Old Salem Road — project cost of $56.4 million.
The timeline for the completion of all critical projects is 2020. The CTP is expected to guide the county through 2030.
The CTP has 35 general roadway capacity projects, including all of the critical need projects, with a total price tag of $848.4 million. There are also four bridge rehabilitation and bridge replacement projects in the plan with a total price tag of $19.9 million.
Alternative transportation did receive attention in the CTP. Transit facilities and transit equipment would receive $8.1 million and bike and pedestrian facilities would receive $900,000 under the plan’s guidelines.
One project in the plan is a transit-express bus service to Atlanta. The project would call for the expansion of the Park and Ride lot, located near the entrance to Interstate 20 exit 90 on U.S. Highway 278, as well as the addition of a new Park and Ride lot at the planned West Covington Bypass Interchange. The express bus would offer a service similar to that currently offered by the Xpress bus service in Rockdale County.
Much of the funding for these projects is expected to come from the Georgia Department of Transportation, which is in the middle of a serious budget crunch that has resulted in the postponement/and or scrapping of billions of dollars in road projects across the state. Local funding for projects in the CTP will also come from impact fees and the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.
In January, the Georgia General Assembly is expected to once again take up a transportation funding proposal – the Transportation Local Option Sales Tax – which would allow counties to band together in districts to approve the setting of a special tax to fund transportation projects in their regions. The T-LOST narrowly failed this year for lack of approval in the House of Representatives.
County Chairman Aaron Varner said he plans to hold a meeting after the November election with all of the newly elected county officials to discuss the CTP and which projects they will pursue and in which order.
“All we’re doing is approving the concept,” said Varner of the CTP’s Tuesday approval.
In writing the CTP, URS held several meetings throughout the last year for community stakeholders, elected officials and the public to seek their input and to provide them with updates on the plan. URS also relied on technical data, land use and development trends, regional travel demand model assessments and roadway policies.