The Effingham Parkway could be forging ahead soon, though in a scaled-down version.
Effingham County commissioners discussed the possibilities for the Parkway earlier this month, and it appears they may be working in conjunction with Chatham County officials on a new plan.
Instead of a $120 million project, the revised version of the Parkway may be about $16 million and it may be scaled down in scope and length as a result.
“There is an alternate plan,” said Effingham County Commission Chairman Wendall Kessler.
According to Kessler, Chatham County is working on a plan to get the planned Parkway to Highway 30 and then participating in a plan to get the road from Highway 30 to the county line.
“I think Chatham County is interested in making something happen,” said Commissioner Steve Mason. “They have as much a problem as we do.”
The Parkway’s funding was included in the proposed special purpose local option sales tax, or T-SPLOST, that voters shot down last summer. The additional one-cent sales tax would have been assessed and accumulated on a regional basis, with the regions based on the counties covered by the various regional commissions.
The four phases of the Parkway were pegged at $133.9 million, and the T-SPLOST was supposed to pick up about $125 million of the tab. But that included a four-lane, limited access highway from Highway 119 to Highway 30 and then connect to Jimmy DeLoach Parkway in Chatham County.
The Parkway, if built, is expected to relieve much of the congestion that currently ties up the intersection of Interstate 95 and Highway 21 in Port Wentworth during rush hours.
Under a proposal now under consideration, the Parkway would cross Goshen Road and then go to Blue Jay Road, where it would terminate. McCall Road would be re-aligned to cross Blue Jay at another point.
The county transportation advisory board has voted to move forward with a two-lane road for the Parkway, rather than a four-lane road, but with enough right-of-way to accommodate a four-lane road.
“It solves any number of issues, and it goes from a new route to a capacity improvement project,” said temporary county administrator Toss Allen. “So it’s easier to throw back into the federal process and let the feds fund the additional capacity.”
Allen suggested that commissioners try to set up a meeting with its Congressional delegation about the possibility of moving its federal earmark, seeing if there is any interest in moving the earmark off Effingham Parkway and onto the I-16 and Old River Road intersection work.
The county has spent $1.5 million on the Parkway.
To relax the requirement on the earmark “literally takes an act of Congress,” Allen said. “We were told it was very difficult but not impossible to get done.”
Representatives from Effingham and Bryan counties met recently with staff from the Coastal Region Metropolitan Planning Organization, which carries out transportation planning for the Chatham Metropolitan Planning Commission, to discuss a proposal to become part of the CORE MPO’s planning area and how many seats would be available on the MPC.
The MPO also is including Effingham and Bryan counties in a study on park-and-ride lots. The MPC has contracted with Hussey, Gay, Bell and DeYoung for Highway 21 corridor study.