COVINGTON - The Georgia Department of Transportation is revising the project description for the widening of Salem Road in Newton to be funded through T-SPLOST.
The current project description says Salem Road is slated to be widened from two to six lanes, with traffic signals installed at major intersections, between the I-20 interchange and Brown Bridge Road.
According to Todd Long, deputy commissioner of DOT, "The way it is described on the sheet is not an accurate reflection of the project the roundtable voted on. They voted on the widening from Brown Bridge Road to Old Salem Road and we're going to rephrase that description to reflect that."
Long is referring to the roundtable of elected officials from the Northeast Georgia Region that selected the T-SPLOST project list.
The new description will not specify how many lanes the road will be widened, but Long said, "I feel certain in will be four lanes in Newton."
According to Chairman Kathy Morgan, "At one time the Federal Highway department wanted to widen the road to six lanes; we have appealed to reduce that to four lanes with the agreement we would improve Brown Bridge Road and widen Crowell road to four lanes providing alternate access to I-20. It is my understanding that GDOT supports our appeal."
Long said that the DOT will need to revisit some of the studies and concept development work already done on the road before making a final decision, but that he believes the Newton portion will be widened to four lanes.
The project description is also inaccurate because it includes the I-20 interchange in Rockdale County. The state has been divided into 12 transportation regions for the purposes of T-SPLOST, and Rockdale is in a different planning region than Newton. Rockdale's portion of Salem Road is not on that county's T-SPLOST list, but there is federal money available to fund the widening in Rockdale, Long said. In Rockdale county, especially near the I-20 interchange, Salem may need to be widened to six lanes, he said.
The change to the project description in Newton will not affect the estimated cost of $34,317,452, Long said.
The Rockdale county portion of the project will cost roughly $37 million, putting the long-awaited and long-delayed project cost total at more than $70 million.
"You can see why we've had trouble funding it. But it is an important project; it's a good project." said Long.
If T-SPLOST passes, the Salem widening is slated to take place in years four through seven of the 10-year program, which would be 2016 - 2019. Long said the Rockdale project would follow roughly the same timeline.
Voters will decide on July 31 whether to pay an additional one percent sales tax over the next 10 years to fund transportation projects. According to the T-SPLOST list on www.t-splost.com, Newton could receive approximately $120 million in transportation project revenues if the tax is approved. Newton is in the Northeast Georgia Region, along with Barrow, Clarke, Elbert, Greene, Jackson, Jasper, Madison, Morgan, Oconee, Oglethorpe and Walton counties. Transportation revenues generated in the Northeast Georgia Region are expected to total $987 million over the 10-year life of the T-SPLOST, from 2013 to 2022.