Highway projects expected to begin

With the help of Transportation Investment Act, Glascock and Jefferson counties will soon see the benefits of the 1-cent sales tax that was passed through a referendum from voter support in July 2012, according to the Georgia Department of Transportation.

One project in Glascock County has already been awarded to a contractor, while bidding for a project in Wrens began in July. The Georgia DOT is overseeing management of the budget, schedule, execution and delivery of all TIA projects, in collaboration with local and state agencies.

DOT District 2 Communications Officer Kyle Collins said that to date, TIA collections total more than $328 million in the three regions that passed the 1-cent sales tax. Those regions including Central Savannah River Area, River Valley and Heart of Georgia will fund 871 transportation projects with the sales tax collected over 10 years. In the CSRA alone, there are 84 projects on the approved investment list valued at more than $538 million during the 10-year program.

“Those regional projects were chosen prior to the referendum question that was voted on in 2012,” Jefferson County Administrator Adam Mestres said. “There was a roundtable in each region and members were delegated from the county. For Jefferson County, it was William Rabun and Lester Hadden, and we had three projects that made it on the list for the region.”

Seventy-five percent of the money collected within each county is combined with money gathered from the sales tax from other counties in the CSRA to fund the proposed projects that were passed in the referendum. The other 25 percent of money amassed by each county is placed in a discretionary fund for that county to use for other transportation projects or needs.

The project delivery is divided into three bands. Band 1 projects will be for years 2013 to 2015, Band 2 for 2016 to 2019, and Band 3 for 2020 to 2022. Collins said all projects must be in the construction phase of delivery by Dec. 31 of the last year of the band assigned.

“In the early phase of delivery, the TIA Office faced several hurdles, including lower than projected collections and short time periods to develop projects from design to construction,” Collins said. “Through extensive analysis of cash flow, budgeting, designs and packaging of work, along with offering a local delivery option, the TIA Office successfully overcame these hurdles and moved the program forward. As a result, Band 1 nears completion with all projects on schedule to begin construction by Dec. 31, 2015.”

Recently, Southern Asphalt, LLC, of Evans was awarded the $449,212 project for the .242 mile paving and construction on J.W. Braswell Road.

“The projects on the regional list like the one at the school in Gibson were chosen by the local governments and submitted the regional roundtable prior to the TIA vote in 2012,” Collins said.

“J.W. Braswell is a dirt road off of the school circle,” Glascock County Commission Chairman Lori Boyen said. “They will pave that. It will extend the road beyond where J.W. Braswell stops and curve it to tie into the bus loop at the school.”

Collins added that the road will provide a second access to the school to be used during special events or emergency situations. The purpose of the road will also benefit the public by relieving congestion caused by vehicles turning into Glascock County Consolidated School and increase access to the school by providing an additional entry.

The utilities and right-of-way are clear for the project, but the contractor and Georgia DOT needed some final Environmental Protection Division and departmental approval before it could proceed.

“It’s safe to say the work could begin by the end of the summer,” Collins said.

The completion date in the contract is March 31, 2016. Collins added that the contractor will maintain access to the residences along the existing road so no detours will be needed, and since it is a new entrance into the school, school traffic will not be affected.

The first Jefferson County project will be to convert Hoyt Braswell Road to a truck route. Bidding for the project began on July 17, and the completion date is June 30, 2016.

The project will convert Hoyt Braswell Road to a truck route from U.S. 1 to Kings Mill Road by widening existing lanes to 12 foot lanes and resurfacing. This will connect industrial areas, including Kings Mill Industrial Park with major arterials, reducing traffic through Wrens city streets.

Currently truck traffic from Hwy. 88 and Hwy. 1 travels through residential streets in the city of Wrens, including multiple way stops. This will provide access for heavy hauling of kaolin and other materials from industrial area to major arterials and facilitate transfer to and from railroad areas.

Georgia DOT and officials believe the project will benefit the public by potentially reducing the incidence of crashes along the roadway segment, corridor and/or intersection. The project is also believed to help support economic growth by improving access to jobs, travel times for drivers, efficiency and reliability for the movement of goods, improve travel times for drivers and local connectivity to the statewide transportation network.

The total for projected cost of the truck route conversion is $4,341,344, which includes preliminary engineering, right of way and construction, Collins said. He added that the road will be closed to through traffic, but access will be maintained to properties along the project during construction.

Money in the discretionary fund for both, Glascock and Jefferson counties, has been used to make improvements where local officials saw a need.

“We were able to buy new equipment for the road crew,” Boyen said. “It is hard to find money to pay for such expensive equipment. We’ve been able to buy gravel, pipes and other things the county needs to get the roads back in shape. It is also supplementing our Local Maintenance Improvement Grant, which we have to match 10 percent.”

In Jefferson County, Mestres said that money from the discretionary TIA money and some from SPLOST will be used for projects.

“We still have our SPLOST, and we will take money from both areas, so nothing will be completely funded alone by TIA,” Mestres said. “We are looking at some projects, like resurfacing Middlegroud Road, but we will use money from Georgia DOT, SPLOST and TIA. We will blend the money from different sources.”

Collins added that the TIA program invests $1.5 billion in new money over the 10 year period in the three regions.

“The TIA program fosters economic growth and provides access to jobs; provides much needed rehabilitation of local roads and bridges; allows for quicker project delivery; is governed by a Citizen’s Review Panel; and allows dollars collected in a specific region to stay in that region,” Collins said.