County road projects affected by state transportation funding shortfall

CONYERS - Rockdale County is feeling the effects of the funding crisis of the Georgia Department of Transportation that is causing delays of local road improvement projects.

The county has four road improvement projects on hold while GDOT tries to account for all road projects it has open.

The projects include intersection improvements, the addition of turn lanes and widening of roads. In particular, the intersections affected by the state funding slowdown are Iris Drive at McDaniel Mill Road; Pleasant Hill Road and Lenora Church Road; Old Salem Road and McCalla Road; and Parker Road and Flat Shoals Road.

County engineers are scheduled to give an update on those road projects to the Rockdale County Board of Commissioners on Monday.

Those projects were to be funded by the state as part of Rockdale County's agreement to participate in the Xpress Bus service of the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority (GRTA).

Rockdale County contributed $1.4 million to GRTA in 2003 to become a part of the regional bus service. The money is to be used for maintenance and operations of the buses taking commuters to Atlanta. In exchange, GRTA earmarked $16.5 million in state bonds for eight road projects in the county.

Responsibility for distributing the GRTA money falls to the Georgia Department of Transportation, which works with the county to design, bid and supervise the work.

The Parker Road-Flat Shoals Road project has had a long and winding history. Originally designed in 1998, the project seeks to widen Parker Road to four lanes from Culpepper Road to Flat Shoals Road and install right-turn yield lanes and left-turn lanes at the intersection.

The county did not have funds for right of way acquisition, so the project was delayed. When funding was available, however, the design requirements had changed and the county had to redesign the intersection.

Again, the Parker Road project has come to a stop. Only this time, the funding issue is coming from the state level.

"Rockdale County is waiting on the new Commissioner, Gena Abraham, to sign the authorization for construction funds, which she is not willing to do until she has a full accounting of all projects and their budgets and schedules from the GDOT staff," said Shannon Hebb, project manager for sales-tax funded roads in Rockdale County. "When she will do this is unknown at this time. We hope that it will be by the end of February, but it could be later."

The remaining projects are not as far along as the other four and include improvements at Gills Mill Road at Sigman Road; widening of portions of Old Covington Highway and Ga. Highway 162 near the Newton County line; and phase three of the Parker Road project, which would widen and reconfigure Parker Road from Flat Shoals Road to Ga. Highway 138.

Jay Jones can be reached at jay.jones@rockdalecitizen.com.