Effingham County leaders didn’t get everything on their wish list through the regional transportation roundtable’s executive committee. Still, plenty of the road projects they want done through the potential sales tax proceeds is moving forward.
The executive committee approved four of the six items on Effingham County’s unrestrained list, giving its stamp of approval to the first three phases of the Georgia Portway/Effingham Parkway and improvements to the interchange at I-16 and Old River Road.
Phase 4 of the Effingham Parkway, the reconfigured interchange of I-95 and Jimmy Deloach Parkway, did not get approval from the executive committee. Neither did the relocation of Highway 119 from downtown Springfield to Highway 21, known as the truck bypass.
But getting those four projects recommended for approval is a seen as plus by Effingham County officials.
“There was a lot of bartering going on,” said Toss Allen, engineer for the county’s public works department. “Somebody equated it to the draft.”
Executive committee members broke down the expected pool of one-cent sales tax proceeds by population across the 10 counties in the region. That meant Effingham stood to get about $96 million in road work. The four projects that will go to the full roundtable total about $122 million worth of work.
“We did well on all fronts,” Allen said.
Effingham officials have pointed to the work they’ve done in preparation for the Georgia Portway and for the improvements at I-95 and Old River Road.
“I think that helped a good bit,” Allen said.
The county, in its submission of the I-16/Old River Road project, requested $16 million out of a projected $20.2 million cost. Construction at the interchange, which includes widening and improvement, is expected to cost $16 million. The other $4.2 million in cost will be in engineering and right-of-way.
Phase 1 of the Georgia Portway, from Jimmy Deloach Parkway to Highway 30, will cost about $47 million, with construction costs pegged at $28 million and right-of-way acquisition at $17 million. It is planned to be a four-lane, divided highway covering 2.2 miles.
Phase 2, from Highway 30 to Blue Jay Road, is expected to cost more than $36.5 million, with $22 million in construction costs and $13 million in right-of-way acquisition. Phase 2 is expected to be 6.3 miles long. Phase 3, with the longest stretch of road at 7.5 miles, will go from Blue Jay Road to Highway 119 and will be a two-lane road. Its estimated cost is $22.35 million.
In its supporting documentation, the county said the revamped overpass could have a positive impact on economic vitality for the region and for the state. The Effingham Industrial Development Authority’s holdings at I-16 are adjacent to the overpass.
“It’s great,” said Effingham IDA CEO John Henry. “I’m pleased with everything they came out with. The Effingham Parkway and the I-16 interchange are intricately tied to the economic development plans we have with I-16 and the Research Forest Tract. In the long run, it’s going to be absolutely necessary to fulfilling the vision we have out there.
“We can’t realize the true potential without it.”
Phase 4 of the Georgia Portway is expected to cost more than $25 million, and the countywide team putting the list together was asking for $24 million from the transportation special purpose local option sales tax.
The Springfield project would have routed trucks away from a railroad overpass they can’t go under, which leads them to go through downtown Springfield instead. Charles Hinely said the city may explore other avenues for funding the long-awaited bypass around that overpass.
“We’re not giving up,” he said.
Allen also said the list is about $109 million more than the projected revenues from the T-SPLOST and the state Department of Transportation is working to cover the difference. Motor fuel tax revenues are still being collected and counted.
“If they can find the $109 million, everything will be fine,” Allen said.
But if not, some projects may go to the chopping block.
Each county also will get discretionary funding from the T-SPLOST and for Effingham County, that could reach $4 million a year over the 10-year sales tax — if it’s approved. The discretionary funding can be spent on anything that is a transportation-related program.
The state Department of Transportation vetted the original list, and Allen cautioned that this is not the final constrained list of projects. The executive committee will hold public hearings on the draft list of constrained projects before submitting it to the full 20-member roundtable by Aug. 15. After that, the list, with any modifications, will be sent to the state DOT by Oct. 15.
Voters in the 10-county region will go to the polls next July to determine if they want to take part in the T-SPLOST.