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Parkway makes the list

POSTED: August 4, 2011 7:09 p.m.

All four phases of the Effingham Parkway are headed to the full regional transportation roundtable for approval after the executive committee approved what is known as the constrained draft list.

The roundtable’s executive committee, which includes state Sen. Jack Hill and state Reps. Ann Purcell and Jon Burns in non-voting roles, met Wednesday morning to review the draft list of projects across a 10-county region. The list will go to the full roundtable by Aug. 15 and is scheduled to be approved by the roundtable — made up of two elected officials from each of the 10 counties — by Oct. 15.

The four phases of the Effingham Parkway/Georgia Portway and interchange improvements at Interstate 16 and Old River Road made it through the executive committee. An original draft list included three of the four parkway phases, and officials from the Coastal Regional Commission recommended adding the fourth phase of the parkway.

“Effingham County fares very well,” Burns said of the draft list, “from a standpoint of projects that have regional significance that the county has been working on. These projects could be easily developed in 10 years and they will be a benefit not just to the county, but to the entire state.”

While the roundtable has to approve the final list, the step next summer likely will be the most crucial one. In July 2012, in conjunction with the general primary, voters will have to approve the one-cent sales tax that will be devoted to transportation efforts. No counties or municipalities can be exempt from the tax once it passes.

State Department of Transportation original estimates put the regional collection of a T-SPLOST at $1.6 billion over 10 years. Revised estimates put the total at close to $2.1 billion over 10 years.

State transportation planner Todd Long asked Effingham officials — county commissioners Vera Jones, Phil Kieffer and Reggie Loper were on hand, along with public works department engineer Toss Allen — how much they intended to contribute to the parkway project. Cost estimates for all phases, including engineering, right-of-way acquisition and construction, of the Effingham Parkway are approximately $131.9 million.

The state DOT may ask the county to chip in close $20 million toward the cost of the project, with the money being used for right-of-way purchases in phases 3 and 4. Under the draft list, the sales tax proceeds were expected to cover nearly 96 percent of the outstanding project’s costs.

Phase 1 of Effingham Parkway will run from Jimmy DeLoach Parkway to Highway 30, a stretch of road contained entirely within Chatham County.

The DOT will provide an 80 percent match on the I-16/Old River Road interchange, a project with a prospective price tag of $20.2 million.

Should the T-SPLOST be approved, 75 percent of its proceeds will be directed toward the listed projects. The remaining 25 percent will be divided by population among the counties.

Allen Burns, executive director of the Coastal Regional Commission, said the state DOT filled a $100 million hole the roundtable had with is projects list, and now the 10-county region has money “above and beyond” what was projected to be needed.

“It’s a good problem to have,” Burns added.

A Glynn County project helped push the numbers about $22 million out of whack, Long said. But he was optimistic that the draft list projects could be accomplished, though some projects may extend beyond the life of the tax.

“We think we’re in good shape in meeting each of the numbers of the counties and in meeting the intent of the legislation,” Long said.

Chatham County Commission Chairman Pete Liakakis pointed to two projects in his county that will have an impact on neighboring counties — improvements to the Highway 204/King Georgia Boulevard intersection and improvements to the I-95/Highway 21 interchange in Port Wentworth.

Liakakis said he drove through the interchange just to see for himself how bad the bottleneck is at 95 and 21.

“This interconnectivity is what is going to get the voters attention,” said Jimmy Burnsed, chairman of the Bryan County Commission and chairman of the roundtable’s executive committee. “All these projects that move people will get voter support.”

Kieffer praised Liakakis for his consideration of Effingham drivers in some of Chatham’s traffic problems.

“That’s the idea,” he said. “That’s what it means to be regional.”

The coastal region is one of 12 putting together draft lists of projects to be funded by a prospective penny tax. Long has been a proponent of the T-SPLOST to get some of the needed road work and other transportation projects around the state done.

“The roundtable executive committees have worked well together,” said Long. “The process is going well.”

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