Rockdale seeks $25M in fed funds
Money would be used for transportation projects

CONYERS - Rockdale County is eyeing $25 million in transportation projects being targeted for funding through the federal economic stimulus plan.

Seven road projects and three walking trail projects are part of the almost 900 road projects submitted for consideration from across the state, Georgia Department of Transportation spokesman David Spear said Friday.

Five of the seven road projects submitted are improvements to what are considered by many as some of the most dangerous intersections in the county, including Ga. Highway 20 at West Hightower Trail for $1.8 million and the intersection of Old Covington, North Salem and Sigman roads for $2.5 million.

The most expensive item on the county's wish list is the underpass reconnection of Old Covington Highway with Green Street for $4.9 million.

The county also added two recreational trail projects to the list. One is the Lorraine Trail head at Ga. Highway 138 and the South River to serve the multi-use trail connecting Arabia Mountain with the Monastery of the Holy Spirit. The other is construction of a walking trail at newly named Wheeler Park on Parker Road.

Spear said the project list was compiled with help from the Atlanta Regional Commission and pulled from the Transportation Improvement Program, or TIP, that ranks road projects across the 18-county metro Atlanta area for funding purposes.

"Our first task is to determine if they even meet the eligibility requirements for the stimulus funding," Spear said. "Those eligibility requirements are primarily the same as ours. They have to be in the program, and in Rockdale's case they have to be in the TIP. Also, at least half the money that we have to spend has to be toward projects we can begin within 120 days."

The other half of the stimulus money has some flexibility to fund projects beyond 120 days, but when the dust clears all the money will need to be obligated to projects within three years, Spear said.

GDOT staff will submit their recommendations to Gov. Sonny Perdue and the GDOT Board of Directors in the next week or two. Spear said the federal stimulus funding is "at its heart, a jobs program" and that will play a role in selecting road projects.

"We want to focus on projects throughout the state that can create as many jobs as possible," Spear said. "Therein, the premise is rather than doing two to three big jobs, we're going to focus on as many smaller jobs as we can to put more people back to work and spread that work out among various contractors and subcontractors."

That bodes well for Rockdale County's recreation trails projects, but not so much for others. Unresolved right of way issues and how far along - or behind - engineering designs are for some road projects will play a major role in meeting the stimulus requirements.

Spear said safety projects submitted by the county for guard rails and signals for 16 locations with a total price tag of $1.4 million are likely not to make the cut because those improvements are considered basic maintenance by the federal stimulus requirements.

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

SideBar: At a glance

Rockdale County submitted a list of preferred road projects to the Georgia Department of Transportation to be considered for the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that will pump in $700 million into Georgia to cover varies areas of transportation. About half of the money, or $337 million, is required to be obligated to projects within 120 days from March 2. GDOT officials will spend the next couple of weeks to determine which projects meet federal stimulus requirements.

Road Projects/Estimated cost

Irwin Bridge replacement/$5 million

McDaniel Mill/Klondike/Hurst roads intersection/$1.7 million

Old Covington Highway underpass/$4.9 million

Sigman/Gees Mills roads intersection/$2.7 million

Ga. 20/West Hightower Trail intersection/$1.8 million

Old Covington/North Salem/

Sigman roads intersection/$2.5 million

General safety projects

(guard rails, signals, etc. for 16 locations)/$1.4 million

Total:$20 million

Recreation projects/Estimated cost

Lorraine Trail head construction/$400,000

Wheeler Park walking trail/$100,000

Total: $500,000

Source: Georgia Department of Transportation