Originally created 02/04/05

Local, state officials discuss road project money



ATLANTA - Before they dug into barbecue, asphalt was on the menu for Augusta commissioners making their annual trip to the Capitol on Thursday.

As part of Augusta Day in Atlanta, which was capped off by a dinner for lawmakers and their staffers, local officials met with the Department of Transportation to discuss money.

Transportation Commissioner Harold Linnenkohl warned about tight budgets affecting his amount of state aid available this year.

But he said Augusta could have $450,000 if the city can hurry up and get one of its top-priority projects ready to go before the end of the fiscal year June 30.

"I haven't spent anything in your area," he told the group of Augusta officials. "I would like to get something in for this fiscal year."

Mr. Linnenkohl said he had $6.1 million in the aid program to spend on local projects around the state. Augusta has used only about $14,000 for asphalt projects, such as paving, since July.

The department committed $450,000 several years ago to a plan for nearly a mile of drainage and road improvements to East Boundary Street between Laney-Walker Boulevard and Broad Street.

Mr. Linnenkohl told Augusta Public Works Director Teresa Smith and other county officials that they could have the money this year for that project or for another project in which construction could start soon.

But he also said not to expect any more this year.

"I've got $3 million left for the whole state to get me through the end of June," Mr. Linnenkohl said. "To handle much more than (the $450,000) is going to be very difficult."

Ms. Smith said two other local projects will be ready in the coming months.

One plan is to widen Peach Orchard Road to three lanes to Old Louisville Road and replace a deficient bridge over the Rock Creek tributary.

The other high-ranking project is to widen 1.35 miles of Morgan Road to three lanes between Deans Bridge and Tobacco roads.

County commissioners will have to decide whether to keep their allotted money in the East Boundary project or move it one of the others.

Last year during the same meeting, Augusta received $1 million from the state program.

Commissioner Willie Mays said he was not disappointed with this year's amount considering "what they had to work with."

"It's always better than hearing there's no money," he said.

On other items:

 •  Mr. Linnenkohl said Augusta officials could transfer $7 million in state money from a project to widen Wrightsboro Road and add a turn lane to a long-awaited St. Sebastian Way plan to connect the city's medical complex to River Watch Parkway. But he warned that the city will have to find another funding source for the Wrightsboro Road project if they shift that money over.

 •  Several county commissioners and local legislators expressed safety concerns along a stretch of Mike Padgett Highway where wrecks are becoming more frequent because there is no turn lane between Tobacco and Brown roads and traffic is increasing. Mr. Linnenkohl suggested that DOT officials study the area to see whether a solution can be found.

 •  Responding to noise complaints from Glenn Hills residents, commissioners asked whether the state would consider putting up sound barriers along Bobby Jones Expressway. State officials said a noise study is part of a long-range project for the expressway.