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Windsor Spring Road widening project moves closer to reality

Passage of tax could ensure project's start

Saturday, June 23, 2012 8:34 PM
Last updated 10:24 PM
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In 1988, city planners warned Jenkins Memorial CME Church to build far back from the edge of Windsor Spring Road. The road would be widened soon, they said. Twenty-four years later, the pastor and churchgoers still haven’t seen that happen.

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Traffic backs up at the intersection of Tobacco and Windsor Spring roads. Officials say a delayed project to widen Windsor Spring Road is closer to becoming a reality.  SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
Traffic backs up at the intersection of Tobacco and Windsor Spring roads. Officials say a delayed project to widen Windsor Spring Road is closer to becoming a reality.

Now, state and local officials say, federal and state funding is secured and the widening project is closer to reality. Voter approval on July 31 of a special 1 percent transportation tax referendum could guarantee that the project isn’t delayed any longer.

“We want the road widened,” said the Rev. Timothy Green, pastor of the church at 4218 Windsor Spring Road. “We’re trying to push forward because it’s too much congestion. People can’t get around.”

Funds were allocated to begin the project’s design in Augusta’s second special purpose local option sales tax in 1991 and additional money was added in phases three and four of the tax.

While the project waited on full funding, the cost for widening the road increased.

According to The Augusta Chronicle archives, the project’s cost was estimated at $20 million in 2005. Now, $43 million is budgeted for two phases of road widening and two bridge replacements.

According to the Georgia Department of Transporta­tion, the project has been expedited because of
vehicle congestion and numerous crashes. Two lanes will be widened to four from Tobacco Road to Georgia Highway 88.

Krystal Stovall-Dixon, the GDOT project manager, said cost estimates could have increased because material costs were inflated or values of property needed for acquisition changed.

Augusta Commissioner Joe Jackson said past city transportation engineers underbudgeted the large construction project, so the widening wasn’t started.

“The money that was earmarked for Windsor Spring Road got moved somewhere else,” Jackson said.

According to Engineering Director Abie Ladson, the construction portion was never funded. Earlier allotments from the tax were spent on design and planning.

Deputy Finance Director Tim Schroer said tax collections for Windsor Spring Road were mostly spent. Unused money is funneled into a special account where it can be used for another project approved by the city commission.

Like Jackson, some residents perceive that tax money for the project was misused.

Residents have long voiced concerns about traffic problems, especially near Diamond Lakes Regional Park, but the road was never improved.

Sammie Sias, a long-time Hephzibah-area activist, said traffic after an event at Diamonds Lake can be “total mayhem” and the project is “way overdue.”

“The money needs to stop vanishing. The money needs to stay where it’s supposed to be,” Sias said.

Jackson, who served on the regional roundtable that compiled the list of projects, said $6 million for the widening was included in the referendum list, a tactic that guarantees the project’s completion if the vote passes. Under the Transportation Investment Act, all projects on the approved list must be completed.

“All these projects have to be delivered,” Jackson said.

Jason O’Rouke, political director for Connect Georgia, a Georgia Chamber of Commerce entity created to promote the tax referendum, said most regions considering the tax referendum included projects that were already funded.

If the tax passes, the $6 million earmarked for Windsor Spring must be used in place of an equal amount of federal funding that’s been secured for the project.

“That (federal) money will be freed up for other transportation projects, but it has to stay in the region,” he said.

According to GDOT, $33.7 million was funded federally and $5.8 million comes from state money with additional contributions from other sources.

ABOUT THE PROJECT

The roadway will be widened to four lanes with a raised median from Tobacco Road to Georgia Highway 88. Left- and right-turn lanes will be added at major intersections. Additionally, an 8-foot-wide, multi-use trail will be added on both sides of the roadway.

Two bridge replacements are also planned over Spirit Creek and the Norfolk Southern Railroad. The railroad bridge will be widened to two southbound and four northbound lanes.

The total project cost is estimated at $43 million. Right-of-way acquisition is under way and construction is estimated to begin in May 2014 and last 24 months, according to GDOT.

ROADBLOCK

More than 33,000 cars travel Windsor Spring Road between Tobacco and Willis Foreman roads daily, according to 2011 measurements by GDOT. By 2031, that number is estimated to climb to 50,200. The traffic estimates fall to about 10,000 vehicles for the roadway between Willis Foreman and Georgia Highway 88.

For the entire stretch, crashes occur about 2.5 times more often than the statewide average, according to GDOT.

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countyman
21264
Points
countyman 06/23/12 - 08:37 pm
0
1
Sammie Sias lives in South

Sammie Sias lives in South Augusta, and not the city of Hephzibah... Parts of Tobacco rd, Windsor Spring, and Morgan rd may have a Hephzibah address, but they're located in South Augusta... Hephzibah is actually a real city with it's own mayor, police force, etc....

Great news for South Augusta and Hephzibah... The area near Hwy 88 in Hephzibah can support alot of future growth...

rebellious
21408
Points
rebellious 06/24/12 - 06:01 am
2
0
Wait for the next redirection of funds

These funds conveniently were siphoned off for the St Sebastion and Alexander Drive projects. As expected, South Augusta projects continue to be pished to the bottom of the list, as a runt is shuffled away from the teet. While promises of sure completion are attached to the latest political football (Tsplost), if history is any indicator if the future, we will be reading a revamped version of the same article in 2015. Can you say "Alexander Road/Berkman Road alignment project"? The more things change, the more they remain the same. So Mote it be.

seenitB4
93466
Points
seenitB4 06/24/12 - 07:12 am
3
0
Same song & dance

The article says...

“The money that was earmarked for Windsor Spring Road got moved somewhere else,” Jackson said.

How long will South Augusta put up with this???

DuhJudge
206
Points
DuhJudge 06/24/12 - 07:22 am
2
0
If Windsor Spring did not go

If Windsor Spring did not go to Hephzibah it would have been completed years ago. Now that widening is being used to sell the TSPLOST. Vote NO. It will be done when the DOT chooses to do it. Widen it to Willis Foreman and move on. Vote No to another 1% of your take home pay going away.

dichotomy
36127
Points
dichotomy 06/24/12 - 05:05 pm
0
0
"How long will South Augusta

"How long will South Augusta put up with this???"

Apparently forever. They've been taking it for 17 years and, I guess, the majority of them are just not smart enough to understand that they are being robbed of their tax money. And they are dumb enough to always fall for these "carrot" SPLOSTs and the promises of great things. Somehow the money always ends up downtown, with Paul, or with bunch of phony preachers.

countyman
21264
Points
countyman 06/24/12 - 06:07 pm
0
0
There's more future/underway

There's more future/underway road projects in South Augusta compared to anywhere else... Windsor Spring, Mike Padgett, I-520, etc...

Are you really comparing the $10 million Alexander rd to the $30 million I-520 project?

Little Lamb
47861
Points
Little Lamb 06/25/12 - 10:36 am
0
0
Advertisement

This article is just an advocacy advertisement for the new tax. I hope voters in this region vote NO! on the TSPLOST.

8% sales tax would be just too much!

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