0

Input sought
County plans meeting on transportation

COVINGTON - If you're tired of waiting in traffic and want a chance to help solve the county's transportation problems, you may want to attend a public meeting on the Newton County Comprehensive Transportation Plan on Tuesday night.

The meeting will take place at 7 p.m. in the Newton County Historic Courthouse at 1124 Clark St.

The comprehensive plan is a study that will evaluate the transportation infrastructure and make recommendations for safety, congestion mitigation, traffic flow and improved land use.

The purpose is to get public input on which transportation projects should be top priority.

County Engineer Kevin Walter said the study is necessary if the county is to be competitive in its efforts to attain federal and state funding.

Now is the critical time for public input, Walter said.

"We really want a lot of people to come out to this meeting," he said. "We're going to try to make it as understandable as we can, in terms that everybody can understand and then have a lot of opportunities for people to ask questions and make comments."

So far, consultants with URS Corp. have completed an assessment of existing conditions on roadways and have conducted interviews with key local officials.

URS also recently completed a needs assessment report listing the worse roads in the county.

Among them were Brown Bridge, Crowell and Salem roads; the Covington ByPass; U.S. Highway 278; and Ga. highways 36 and 81.

Consultants must now determine which roads have the most critical need for improvement.

"We'll be lucky to do a quarter of the needed projects with the way funding is," Walter said. "Even though we have money locally, and certainly there is state and federal money available, it's going to become very tight."

Tuesday night's meeting is the second public hearing on the plan.

The first, held in June 2006, introduced the community to the process.

Following Tuesday's meeting, consultants will make recommendations to the county on the most critical projects.

Another meeting will be held to present those recommendations to the public, Walter said.

The Atlanta Regional Commission will fund 80 percent of the $312,000 study, with Newton County funding 20 percent.

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