SPRINGFIELD — Construction costs for the Effingham Parkway are headed uphill.
Project manager L.N. Manchi of the engineering firm Moreland Altobelli told the Effingham County Board of Commissioners on Friday that building the road is likely to cost considerably more than expected. The current estimate is $67,413,882, he said. That is $17,789,017 over the original projection.
Moreland Altobelli designed the plan for the parkway, a north-south roadway, to ease congestion on Ga. Hwy 21, the only four-lane north-south classified arterial of Effingham County that provides direct access to I-95. The need for such a route was identified in the Comprehensive Growth Management Plan for Effingham County (1998).
The population of Effingham County has more than doubled to nearly 60,000 in the last 30 years and the rapid growth is expected to continue. As a result, traffic volumes in the region are expected to double by 2040.
The Georgia Department of Transportation, through House Bill 170, allotted $44 million for construction of the 17-mile Effingham Parkway when the cost per square foot was estimated to be $70. That number has escalated to $110, Manchi said.
“We are looking at really increased costs,” he explained. “The construction costs alone were (projected to be) $52 million as of last year and this year — when we did the cost estimates — it jumped another 15 percent to $58 million.”
That total doesn’t include preliminary engineering, utilities and mitigation. Most of those costs will be absorbed by Effingham County.
Mitigation includes the archaeological studies and the purchase of wetland credits. About 10 acres of wetlands are involved with the parkway’s current design, Manchi said.
“Basically, we are seeing these cost increases primarily because of the number of bridges on this project,” Manchi said. “We have six bridges along this project to avoid the wetlands impact.”
Manchi, who said there is a possibility the cost projection might go down, said the Effingham Parkway project has received approval from the Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Wildlife Service.
“They basically approved the way the package was presented to them and that’s a huge deal because that enhances the permitting process going on in the project,” Manchi said.
Manchi said the cost of the parkway might be lowered by changing the existing plan but that would delay completion until 2022 or later. He said the current let date is January 2021.
The changes could include an alternative route or shortening bridges. Manchi warned that a new alignment would bring more wetlands into play and bridge changes would likely increase mitigation costs, currently $3.4 million, thereby reducing or eliminating potential savings.
Citing the expected addition of 20,000 people to Effingham County in the next six years, Wesley Corbitt, chairman of the Effingham County Board of Commissioners, voiced opposition to any delays.
A likely option to fill the funding gap for the parkway is seeking state government help. That is attractive because it wouldn’t affect the let date.
Manchi said 46 parcels of land — 40 in Effingham County and six in Chatham County — have to be acquired to complete the parkway. He estimated that objective is 45-55 percent complete and that a new route would be a setback in that area.
Sen. Jack Hill, Rep. John Burns, Rep. Bill Hitchens and Ann Purcell, chairman of the State Board of Transportation, were on hand for Manchi’s presentation.