Newton County still has its fair share of unpaved roads, but not many are left in western Newton County and not many have a large, paved-road subdivision branching off them.
The county has begun securing right of way properties from landowners and homeowners along Veal Road/Livingston Lane to widen and realign them and hopes to begin work in early 2014, county Transportation Director Tom Garrett said this week. Area residents are cheering the decision and doing what they can to help.
Kristy Janocha has lived on Veal Road for about a year and reached out to The News, asking about the road’s history and how she and her neighbors could get something done. She said neighbors have heard for years that the road was scheduled to be paved, but it remains a dirt road, which becomes an issue in bad weather.
"It has been dry now, and the road is full of dust. It does not help when you have people speeding up and down the road constantly, when the current speed (limit) is only 25 mph," Janocha said, adding that dirt bikes and four-wheelers add to the dust kicked up. "The dust is getting unbearable. Our grass, houses and vehicles are completely brownish white from the dust. It’s an embarrassment to take vehicles out into the public. I know of several kids on this street with asthma problems, and it’s hard for them to play outside when the dust is constantly staying kicked up."
Garrett said the county always wants to receive input from citizens. In addition to prior public meetings to discuss multiple design options, the county will be holding public meetings soon to get as many right of way agreements and donations as it can at one time.
"That can greatly expedite the process if we don’t have to go door to door," he said.
In most cases in which residents request road paving, as was true recently with Gaithers Road, the county asks residents to donate property easements or right of way accesses.
Once the county gets all the agreements it needs — 65 parcels are needed, primarily narrow strips of land along the fronts of properties — construction will begin, Garrett said. He expects right of way acquisitions to take 3–6 months.
The project has already been designed, and the most recent construction cost estimate is $950,000, Garrett said. SPLOST 2005 money paid for the design, and any leftover 2005 SPLOST and 2011 SPLOST money will be used for construction. Though $2 million was budgeted for the project in the 2011 SPLOST, Garrett said not all of that money would be needed. SPLOST transportation money technically comes out of a single pot, so any unused money can be spent on other road projects.
Work will include widening the portions of Veal Road and Livingston Lane from Richards Chapel Road to Oak Hill Road. The width of the dirt road varies from 18–24 feet; the paved road will be 22 feet with improved shoulders and drainage, Garrett said.
Garrett said the road is particularly flat out there, so drainage improvements will be needed to keep the roads safe once paving is finished.
In addition, the road will be realigned in two areas. First, the severe curve where Veal Road turns into Livingston Lane will be reduced somewhat, and the off-center and dangerous intersections where Livingston Lane and Magnet Road meet Oak Hill Road will be made into a single intersection by moving Livingston Lane to match up with Magnet Road.
"Getting back out onto Oak Hill is dangerous. A lot of people try to cross to Magnet at an angle; it’s a dangerous spot for people to get to out and cross over," said Newton County Commissioner Lanier Sims, who represents the area. "I’m glad it’s getting realigned.
"I’ve lived in that area my whole life. When I started growing up, I thought developers would have paved that road when they put in the subdivision. A lot of residents thought the same thing," Sims said. "It’s been a long overdue project, and I’ll be happy for it to actually get off the ground.