Newton OKs task orders

COVINGTON - Newton County commissioners approved task orders Tuesday night for additional consulting work on two major intersections.

Commissioners agreed to pay transportation consultants URS nearly $40,000 for more work on the design phase of improvements to the Ga. Highway 212 and Ga. Highway 20/Brown Bridge Road intersection, and the intersection of Ga. Highway 162 and Salem Road.

Additional funds were warranted because the county is receiving federal money for the projects, which were initially to be undertaken locally, County Engineer Kevin Walter said.

"Both intersections are of grave concern to the county, because of fatalities in the case of Smith Store Road, and, in the case of Ga. 20 and 212, because of horrible congestion there," he said.

The county intends to move the intersection of Ga. highways 212 and 20 about 300 feet to the north to further the distance between the intersection with Brown Bridge Road in hopes of relieving traffic congestion, Walter said. Two traffic signals and turn lanes will also be added.

At Smith Store and Salem, a signal and turn lanes will be added and the sharp angle of Smith Store Road will be straightened.

Because the Georgia Department of Transportation could not act immediately on the projects due to limited funding, county commissioners agreed to move forward using local funds, Walter said.

About six months into the design phase of the projects, the DOT notified the county that it had about $1 million available in operational safety money that could be applied to the projects.

"It delayed the projects because federal money made the analysis much more cumbersome and time-consuming ... but we just could not turn that down," Walter said.

The additional money to URS will pay for the additional analysis needed to meet federal guidelines.

Construction on the projects is expected to begin in early fall and run through spring 2009, he said.

"What we're doing may be all we get for 10 or 15 years. We're very lucky the board decided to go ahead," Walter said.

In other news, commissioners also approved a task order for $54,342.50 to hire PBS&J to oversee the repaving of Jack Neely and County Road 213.

Less than 1 mile of Jack Neely between Brown Bridge and Kirkland roads and about 2.4 miles of County Road 213 between Dixie Road and Ga. Highway 36 will be repaved.

A new elementary school will be constructed at the intersection of Jack Neely and Kirkland this year, while County Road 213 is an important arterial connector to Mansfield and Newborn in the southeastern part of the county, Walter said.

PBS&J will assist in daily construction inspection of work and will verify that the county is only billed for materials necessary to the project.

Construction should get under way before summer, Walter said. The projects will be funded through the 2008 roads capital improvement fund.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.