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Commissioners driving forward on parkway
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Effingham County commissioners are going ahead with preliminary work on the Effingham Parkway. But the final tab of the entire project could be even greater than commissioners already have imagined.

Interim county administrator David Crawley told commissioners to expect at least a year’s worth of work on the geotechnical and engineering aspects. Geotech work includes taking soil samples to determine if the land is suitable to put a road there.

The total cost of geotech, environmental and survey work for phases 1 and 2 is approximately $3.2 million. But the cost of that work for the proposed parkway could be $4.5 million, including a stretch south of Highway 30 in Chatham County to I-95, a cost of $1.3 million.

The county has a $4 million federal earmark for phases 1 and 2 of the parkway. Phases 1 and 2 will start at Highway 30 and will be 14.4 miles long, eventually ending at Highway 119. Phase 1 is planned to be four lanes from Highway 30 to Little McCall Road, with Phase 2 a two-lane road from Little McCall to Highway 119.

Commissioners also wondered how long it might take to finish it.

“I don’t mean to be negative,” Commissioner Hubert Sapp said, “but I don’t feel like I’ll ever ride on Effingham Parkway.

But they also worried that the longer they wait, the more difficult the project will become.

“I think we need to go ahead with this,” Commissioner Reggie Loper said.

Another concern is that the longer the process takes, the more it may cost to purchase the needed rights-of-way for the Effingham Parkway. No route for the parkway has been determined yet.

“As we move through engineering and design, the alignments will vary,” Crawley said.

The final alignment will be approved by the DOT, he said.

Crawley also said that the parkway planning is “flying compared to a lot of other projects.”

“The biggest holdup we had was the concept report,” he said.

Under then commissioner Harold Linnenkohl, the state Department of Transportation increased the amount of state money available for a feasibility study on the parkway section south of Highway 30. Money for engineering and design was not included. The federal $4 million also does not include money for right-of-way acquisition.

“(Highway) 30 to 95 is going to be the terror of it all,” Commissioner Jeff Utley said.

Moving ahead with preliminary work also could mean keeping the costs down when it comes to purchase the rights of way needed to build the road.

“Once you define a route, you can restrict any zoning, building or development in the corridor,” Crawley said.

Crawley also expected the engineering work for the section from Highway 30 south to I-95 to be done sometime this fall.

In the past, the people, counties and cities that had their projects designed and permitted, ready to go, got the money when the money was available, Crawley said.

How much help the state could be expected to provide also remains unknown, even as state DOT officials — who are still assessing projects on the books and how to address the shortfall in funding for them — have told Effingham leaders to keep the project moving along.