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GDOT greenlights Parker Road
Officials approve three other projects

CONYERS - The wait is over for the widening of Parker Road and three other road projects after the Georgia Department of Transportation said it would release the work contracts.

Parker Road, Phase 2, will widen the road to four lanes from Culpepper Drive to Flat Shoals Road, along with installing intersection improvements at Flat Shoals Road. Rockdale County Board of Commissioners Chairman Roy Middlebrooks said the work is scheduled to begin by early next month and will be complete by November 2010.

Just a few weeks ago, county officials were uncertain when road construction would begin. GDOT stopped all state road construction after state auditors reported the agency had a $456 million budget deficit for the fiscal year that ended July 31. State law prohibits the department from running a deficit, so transportation officials covered the budget gap with money in the current year's budget.

Middlebrooks said he heard back from GDOT officials last week that Parker Road would move forward. Also, intersection improvements at McCalla-Old Salem roads, Lenora Church-Pleasant Hill roads and Sigman-Gees Mill roads were included.

"We were concerned that these projects might sit on the table for awhile," Middlebrooks said. "But I think us doing our due diligence to get everything we were required to do completed on these projects was a factor in getting GDOT to sign off on them."

Middlebrooks added that he and the other commissioners had lobbied state Transportation Board members Robert Brown and Dana Lemon in getting the local road projects approved. The board is divided by Congressional districts with Brown in the 4th District and Lemon in the 13th District, both representing Rockdale County on GDOT's governing body.

The three other intersection improvement projects are also expected to begin in November. Those should be complete by next year, Middlebrooks said.

The projects were funded through state bonds awarded for the county's participation in the Xpress bus service through the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority. Rockdale County was required to cover the design work, engineering studies and acquiring the right of way, while GDOT would cover the actual construction costs.

In all, the Parker Road project and the three intersection improvements had $4.9 million in state money and $2 million from Rockdale County's current special purpose local option sales tax in funding.

Rockdale County had bid out the work and sent GDOT the final contracts to approve. The last step was seen as procedural, passing one set of papers to one agency, then having them returned. However, that was before the budget crisis at the transportation agency.

Other projects remain on hold, but county road engineers said most of those are in preliminary design stages and would not require state funding for a few more years.

However, the underpass to reconnect Old Covington Highway with Green Street under Ga. Highway 138 is one project that is indicative of GDOT's troubles. Middlebrooks said the state had stopped its right of way acquisition in the area with no word on when the project will relaunch.

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