COVINGTON - Transportation planning was a focus of the county commission’s mini-retreat held last Friday at the FFA-FCCLA Center.
Chairman Keith Ellis said the county has to be proactive and upgrade roads before they deteriorate in order to save money. It costs between $146,000 and $179,000 per mile to patch or resurface a road, Ellis said. Mote Road was recently completely reclaimed at a cost of $250,000 per mile. Ten percent of the county’s 780 miles of roads are graded below a 50, or failing, he said.
Multiply the cost to fix a road by the number of miles that need to be worked on over the next five years, and, “We can’t afford it,” Ellis said. “We can’t raise the millage high enough to do it. We’ve got to find a way to preserve rather than replace.”
The county has a $4.25 million budget for the public works, engineering and fleet departments, with about $3.4 million of that for roads. In addition, there is $17 million of SPLOST 2011 money, some of which has already been spent, and $5 million left over from the 2005 SPLOST. Ellis said about $8 million in road funds will be used to upgrade intersections.
“Sometimes we really can’t afford to four lane a road but if we can identify what makes those congested we might add a turn lane,” he said.
Ellis said the county lacks one property acquisition in order to proceed with improvements to the Ga. Hwy. 81 and Crowell Road intersection, which he deems the worst intersection in the county.
Also, the county is proposing a redesign of the Almon interchange off I-20. The county is willing to put in $400,000 of seed money for the $3 million project, Ellis said. So far, comments from the Department of Transportation have been favorable, but there is not a firm deal, he said.
The county has 55 bridges and culverts, and to get the bridges in the shape they need to be, it could take $1 million a year, he said.
A plan detailing bridge and culvert work that needs to be completed and a timeline is in the works, along with a transportation plan that will combine several existing prioritization lists and plans. Ellis said he wants to have plans in place for future boards to reference. He also wants to post projects in the commission board room for citizens.
Also, Ellis said this year the county is using local maintenance and improvement grant funds from the DOT right away “because if we let it go through the winter those roads are going to deteriorate more.”
The county received $894,910.73 in LMIG dollars for this year. The county is required to fund a 30 percent match, at $268,472.23, which is being funded out of the general fund and SPLOST.