Traffic officials propose changing schedule for tax projects

The voter-approved construction schedule for dozens of transportation projects funded by a 1 percent sales tax could be significantly revised in Richmond County.

Augusta’s traffic engineering department has proposed a major shift to the timetable to allow more time for design and engineering work on large projects. Smaller projects planned for the later years of the 10-year program would happen sooner.

Before the public voted on the program, a roundtable organized the projects into three time bands: 2013-15, 2016-19 and 2020-22.

The proposal was presented Thursday at the first meeting of the citizens review panel for the tax. It needs final approval from the Georgia Department of Transportation.

Improvements to Gordon Highway, Sixth Street and 13th Street were moved from the first time band to the final one. Sixteen smaller projects, including bridge repairs, road resurfacing and intersection improvements, were moved to the first band.

Augusta traffic engineer Steve Cassell said the proposed changes were studied to ensure nearly even exchanges of project costs. Projects costing $23.9 million were moved from band one and replaced by work costing $21.1 million.

The proposal also recommends moving the $16.7 million realignment and widening of Berckmans Road from band three to band two.

Revisions to the schedule must be done with the public in mind, said Phil Wahl, a member of the citizens review panel.

“We want to make sure it’s in keeping with the spirit of what was in front of the voters and what they are expecting as an outcome,” he said.

Mike Dover, a state administrator for the transportation tax program, said the proposed changes will likely be approved.

“We need to act quickly. We’re halfway through 2013. That means we’re down to 2½ years to get projects to construction,” Dover said.

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