Originally created 04/15/04

Plan will speed up highway upgrades



ATLANTA - Projects that would widen Interstates 20 and 520 around Augusta and improve the interchange between the two roads are among those that would be fast-tracked under a construction plan announced Wednesday by Gov. Sonny Perdue.

The interstate projects are part of "Fast Forward," a six-year, nearly $15.6 billion initiative Mr. Perdue outlined at a morning news conference.

The governor painted the plan as a boon for economic development in the state's rural areas and a way to ease traffic congestion.

Those initiatives already under way would be sped up over the next six years.

"In other words, we're going to pick up the remote and fast-forward to the good part - a more mobile, growing Georgia," Mr. Perdue said.

Funding for the plan would include $11 billion from the Georgia Department of Transportation, $1.5 billion in bond classes already used by the state and $3 billion in what would be a new type of bond for Georgia - Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicles, or GARVEE bonds.

About half the money would go to the Atlanta area and the other half would go to other parts of the state - in line with Georgia's population distribution, the governor said.

A chart showing how some of the funds would be divvied up for interstate use included the Augusta interstate projects, which are part of $1.5 billion that will be spent to add more than 400 lane miles.

Augusta Mayor Bob Young said it will still be necessary to determine when South Carolina will be able to widen its portion of I-20.

"We need to do it sooner rather than later, especially with the governor's fast-track program," Mr. Young said.

Reach Brandon Larrabee at (404) 681-1701 or brandon.larrabee@morris.com.