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Big price tag for road projects
04.06 transportation study
Jennifer Morgan of Carter Burgess and Steve Todd look at potential bike paths through Effingham County. The state Department of Transportation is conducting a study of the county’s transportation needs and possible solutions through 2030. - photo by Photo by Pat Donahue

A draft of a transportation study for Effingham County’s future transportation needs carries a hefty price tag for the recommendations — $490 million.

The state Department of Transportation, in conjunction with the county and consultants Carter Burgess, began a multimodal transportation study last summer. Part of the study, which looks at the county’s transportation needs through 2030, also estimated the county’s population to nearly double to 80,000 and its number of jobs to almost triple to 24,000 by the same date.

“We would love to do every single thing,” said Kyle Mote, the DOT project manager for the study. “But right now, that’s not possible.”

DOT and Carter Burgess representatives said it may not be possible to do all that is recommended.

Said Radney Simpson of the DOT: “The good news is we’ve identified the projects. The bad news is there is not enough identified revenue at this time.”

Some of the projects outlined in the draft are possible, but many of them, such as road paving projects, also have to be done with local money.

“The things in this study are expensive,” said Richard Fangmann of Carter Burgess. “It does take money, and that might not be an easy thing for the county commissioners to do.”

Potential projects to improve roadway capacity and operations include widening Old River Road to four lanes from Highway 80 to John Carter Road in Chatham County, widening Highway 21 to six lanes from I-95 to Fort Howard
Road, adding a third lane to Highway 119 from Highway 21 to Highway 17 and a multi-use path. Another proposal calls for added turn bays and pedestrian and bicycle lanes to Blue Jay and Fort Howard roads where needed.

New roads to be built could include Effingham Parkway, a Jabez Jones/Meldrim Road connector, extending Morgan Road to Highway 17, extending Fort Howard Road to McCall Road and connecting North Carolina Avenue to Lowe’s.

Building the Effingham portion of the Effingham Parkway — which will have a terminus in Chatham County — is projected to be $44.7 million.

“We know it’s a hot topic,” Mote said. “Right now, it’s at the planning level.”

Simpson said the lines drawn to show where the parkway is going may wind up being different once work is about to begin.

“The final alignment is unknown,” he said.

The study also is looking at making better and easier connections in the county, and Mote said the Jabez Jones/Meldrim Road piece would help.

“That would be a great connector,” he said. 

Potential paving projects, 44 miles worth, may be Low Ground Road, Indigo Road, Springfield-Tusculum Road and Morgan/Lorenzo Hurst/Green Morgan School Road.

“Paving helps with safety and with connectivity issues,” Mote said.

There also are possible intersection improvements, such as signals at Midland and Blue Jay and lights on Highway 21 where it crosses 4th Street, 9th Street and McCall Road. The DOT has a signal for McCall Road and Highway 21 in the works and is planning a light at 9th Street and Highway 21.

“They’re still doing some work on it,” Rincon Mayor Ken Lee said of the 9th Street signal plans.

Rincon officials are hoping that can be done by 2009.

Mote said the planners know the Midland and Blue Jay intersection “is a sensitive issue for some people.”

The potential projects list includes considering walking, biking and transit needs with streets, sidewalk plans, multi-use paths on certain roads and bike lanes accompanying selected roads.

Bike lanes, Mote said, can promote healthier living and give people different options, other than riding their car, to a destination.

The study also is looking at other issues — it calls for three additional park and ride lots, one each at Highway 21 and Ebenezer Road, Highway 21 and Fort Howard Road and one in the Old River Road-Highway 80 area.

It also calls for transit options for the elderly and disabled in the northern part of the county. Mote said the concentration of elderly residents is heavier in the northern end of the county, and it may be harder for them to get where they need to go.

Planners believe that as the southern end of the county is filled, the northern end will begin to grow.

“We do feel there will be a good deal of growth north of (Highway) 119,” Jennifer Morgan of Carter Burgess said.

The NAACP, one of the stakeholders in the study, pointed out the need for rural transit, Mote said.

Morgan added that nothing in the study is etched in stone. Projects can be done as money to do them is identified at either the state or local level.

“This is a plan that goes all the way out to 2030,” said Richard Fangmann of Carter Burgess.

Fangmann noted the normal capital improvement plan is a five-year lookahead, so this study gives the county almost five times the amount of time to do that. Also, five-year plans are generally around $50 million in scope.

“A lot of these things are needed right now,” Mote said. “But as the county grows, these should be a priority.”

The study is expected to be done in a couple of months, Mote said.