closer to 4-lane;
truck route planned
A regional transportation study that recommends four-laning Georgia 36 from Thomaston to I-75 should be finished next month and submitted to the Georgia Department of Transportation for consideration.
Close to 50 people showed up Monday night at Flint River Technical College to voice opinions, make suggestions, view maps and meet with representatives from the DOT and Greenhourne-O'Mara, a Maryland-based consulting firm hired for the study. A similar gathering was held Tuesday night in Zebulon while another is scheduled for tomorrow night in Barnesville.
"This is our final round of public meetings," said Greenhourne-O'Mara Project Manager David Lowe. "The thing that seem to be generating the most interest is the widening of Highway 36, and from the work we have done so far, it looks like there is a clear need for that project," said Lowe
The Regional Transportation Study began in March and addresses needs in Upson, Lamar and Pike counties. At present, no cost figures are available, but when the study is released next month, preliminary cost estimates for each project will be included.
In addition to the Georgia 36 widening project, the study recommends a truck route around the east side of Thomaston from U.S. 19 North to U.S. 19 South and a truck route around the east side of Zebulon from U.S. 19 North to U.S. 19 South
The study identifies 32 intersections and nine midblock locations as high accident locations. Improvements were found to be needed at railroad grade crossings and on sidewalks and bicycle routes.
Paid for with $135,000 in state grant money and $5,000 from each of the three counties, the study, when completed, will be used by the Georgia Department of Transportation when determine which projects are to be included in the six-year State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP).
The projects will significant local money.
Hays Arnold, Thomaston-Upson Transportation Task Force Chairman, said this morning millions of locally-generated dollars would be needed to help with the projects and said a Special Project Local Option Sales Tax is the way to go.
"When you start talking about moving utilities and such, the state does not smile on them doing 100 percent of everything," Arnold said. "In Griffin recently, they used SPLOST money to put several needed highway improvement projects on a fast track."
A SPLOST is a one-cent sales tax the public has the option of approving by ballot. In Upson County, citizens have approved two SPLOST issues - to renovate the former Lee campus, improve Matthews Field, improve water/sewer infrastructure, renovate and restore the courthouse and construct a new jail. The latest SPLOST expires at the end of next year. No new one-cent tax is added until the existing tax expires, and only then voters approve.
DOT Preconstruction Engineer David Millen said if projects are wanted they have to be funded.
"Each of the three jurisdictions has agreed to raise money," he said. "The areas that get the projects are the ones that help themselves," Millen said. "We will try to get federal dollars for projects and the state's portion is 20 percent. If the local jurisdiction agrees to pay the 20 percent, for example, that's money the state doesn't have to pay so why shouldn't we move it forward?"
Thomaston-Upson Chamber of Commerce President and Economic Development Director Betsy Hueber said Tuesday all of the projects are needed and pointed to a traffic study which predicts dramatic increases in tractor-trailer use between now and 2006.
Hueber and others surveyed 15 Upson manufacturing and industrial concerns and predicted inbound and outbound tractor-trailer traffic will increase from 9,785 runs per month to 11,229 trips by 2006. That doesn't count the 69.056 other, smaller vehicles she predicts will be coming in and out of town each month by that time.
"Safety is truly the number one concern," she said. "The volume of traffic moving in and out of the area will dramatically increase and the better the roads, the safer everyone traveling them is."
Hueber said a truck route around downtown Thomaston and the widening of Highway 36 would mean nothing but good things for the area.
"This will provide a more direct route to Atlanta and will help us recruit businesses and industry to the area," Hueber said. "This is a long range plan. If we get funded - and there is no guarantee we will - we're looking at something that could easily take a decade to complete. "