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IDA optimistic about road plans
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Effingham Industrial Development Authority officials are hopeful that several steps are being taken in the right direction to push through needed road improvements, particularly for their holdings at I-16 and Old River Road.

Buoyed by recent meetings with state and federal lawmakers, IDA officials are waiting to see how the recent federal economic stimulus may impact its road plans.

“We are making progress in transportation,” IDA CEO John Henry said.

The state expects to receive $932 million in highway funds from the federal economic stimulus.

“I have been assured that the I-16 interchange was submitted to the (Department of Transportation) for stimulus projects,” Henry said. “That’s a ‘shovel-ready’ project.”

Henry said there still wasn’t any indication how the money would be appropriated.

“If we get the bridge, that’s 90 percent of the battle,” he said.

“Effingham County cannot handle the burden of truck traffic coming out of the ports,” IDA Chairman Chap Bennett said.

Half of the total will be directed toward maintenance activities, with 30 percent of the total sum going to resurfacing and 20 percent to interstate rehabilitation work. As much as 26 percent of the package will go to relieve congestion and for new projects that will add road capacity. Bridge replacement and rehabilitation is ticketed for up to $93.2 million, and as much as $93.2 million could be spent on safety projects.

“We have tremendous maintenance needs throughout Georgia and also must meet the federal requirement to spend a significant amount of stimulus funds in a short period of time,” transportation board chairman Bill Kuhlke Jr. said in a release. “Maintenance, bridge and safety projects lend themselves to quick starts.

“On the remaining balance of the funds, we can look at projects that will help move the needle on congestion relief and added capacity. With respect to projects requested by local governments, a great deal of the work assigned in the other categories will be on roads, bridges and intersections that essentially are localized community projects. In addition, the stimulus funds will pay for a portion of what we otherwise would have had to spend normal program funds for; those program monies can now be re-directed.”

Approximately $326 million of the transportation stimulus must be spent on projects that can start within 120 days of the stimulus bill’s passage. The 15 metropolitan planning organizations will split up the remaining $175 million.

Representatives from the IDA and the county commission met with Raybon Anderson earlier this month, but the Statesboro businessman resigned his seat on the state transportation board just a few days later.

“We’ve been working diligently to be heard,” Bennett said. “Unfortunately, that meeting probably didn’t go a long way.”

Anderson has been replaced by Bobby Parham of Milledgeville. Parham, a Democrat, was a 34-year member of the state House of Representatives prior to his election to the state transportation board.

During Effingham Day at the Capitol in late January, several community representatives met with Rep. Vance Smith (R-Pine Mountain), the chairman of the state House Transportation Committee. Smith is pushing a 1 percent statewide sales tax, with the proceeds funding transportation projects across the state.

“When he introduced the plan, the first two projects he mentioned were the Jimmy DeLoach Parkway and Effingham Parkway,” Henry said.

There are two one-cent sales tax plans floating around the Capitol, one that would be statewide and another that would be regionally-based.

“The statewide plan is getting more traction over the regional plan,” Henry said.