Road repaving project “doesn’t seem necessary”

A state and federal allocation of millions of dollars received a less-than-enthusiastic review of “doesn’t seem necessary” on Tuesday.

March 16 marked the second in a series of informational meetings hosted by the Madison Athens-Clarke Oconee Regional Transportation Study (MACORTS), the cooperative transportation planning body for the urbanized area which includes Athens-Clarke County, portions of southern Madison County and northern Oconee County.

A central point of discussion at these meetings is a proposed project that involves resurfacing a 2.7-mile stretch of road on US 441 from the SR10 Loop to 0.2 miles south of Newton Bridge Road. The project proposal estimates that almost 15,000 drivers use this area every day. Daily traffic volume is expected to increase to nearly 25,000 by 2035.

Athens-Clarke County Transportation Planner and meeting moderator Sherry Moore questioned whether US441 actually needed repaving. She stated that places like North Avenue demonstrate more need of upkeep.

MACORTS, as well as Athens-Clarke County Public Works Director David Clark, have contacted the Federal Highway Administration and the Georgia Department of Transportation to inquire about their reasoning. No reply has been issued. Both organizations declined requests for comment from this publication as well.

“Those agencies are not always open with their rationale,” Moore commented. “The only reason I can think of is because this project can be finished quickly,” she added.

Moore went on to describe how many legislators in the federal government are feeling similar apprehension to measures like the repaving project.

The project proposal estimates that nearly $3 million would be needed to fund the project. The money would come from the Jobs for Main Street Act, a federal stimulus bill that is working its way through the Senate.

The House version of the bill passed in a narrow 217-212 vote with no Republican support. An Associated Press report details similar conflict in the Senate, where many members are hesitant to increase government spending. While many agree the bill would stimulate the economy, many disagree over whether the programs funded–extending unemployment benefits, covering Medicaid costs, extending child tax credits, etc.–will directly put people to work.

Also of concern is how slowly money from the first stimulus bill has been used. For instance, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that only $1.7 billion of the $39 billion directed to departments of Transportation and Urban Development will be spent by October.

Because the bill is not yet law, no funds have been formally allotted to the repaving project. Furthermore, the project must be added to the MACORTS Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), the list of all projects receiving federal funds, before it can be initiated.

Moore explains that local governments have only 90 days to use federal funds once they’ve been allotted. Because it would take much longer than 90 days to hire contractors, the FHA and the GDOT requested that MACORTS add the project now so the funds can be employed as quickly as possible if the bill becomes law.

Moore guesses there is a “50-50” chance the bill will pass and expects to receive a decision in the next 2-3 weeks. Moore went on to mention that if the bill did not pass, the road would not be repaved because the county government is not responsible for upkeep of state roads.

The effect of the project on drivers is expected to be minimal. “A few people may have slightly bumpier commutes, and we might receive some phone calls asking what we’re doing,” Moore added, “but it won’t be that big of a deal.”

The amendment’s public comment period lasts until March 23. Comments can be submitted via phone (706-613-3515), e-mail (macorts@co.clarke.ga.us), mail (120 W. Dougherty St., Athens, Ga.) or the MACORTS website (athensclarkecounty.com/macorts). Another meeting will be held at the Danielsville, Ga. Courthouse (91 Albany Ave.) from 5-7 p.m. on March 24.

Possible add-ons

1. PDF copy of the comment form, which readers can print and submit to MACORTS.

2. Timeline graphic of major congressional actions on the bill (as recorded on the website for the Library of Congress).

Advertisements


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s