It may take much more than money to pave the way for Georgia’s and Effingham County’s road needs.
The vast majority of Georgia’s roads are considered to be at least in good condition, but Commissioner Harold Linnenkohl is worried that won’t last long. Last month, he told the joint House-Senate transportation funding study committee that 84 percent of the state’s roads could be listed as in fair, poor or bad condition. Also, it is projected that nearly 30 percent of the state’s bridges will be structurally deficient in the next few years.
Metropolitan Atlanta communities are clamoring for remedies to their congestion woes. But there is no salve in the DOT’s cabinet to help clear those clogged arteries.
Meanwhile, road construction costs have risen 30 percent to 40 percent since 2004. In three years, the DOT’s budget has shot from short of $1.1 billion to $2.7 billion for fiscal year 2007.
“We are spending every penny we have, plus we are borrowing for our future, either from future federal reserves or by debt,” Linnenkohl said.
“There are transportation problems in Georgia,” continued Linnenkohl. “The needs far outweigh the available and projected resources.”
That’s not good news for the state and especially for Effingham. The county’s road needs aren’t going to go away and they are expected to only grow by leaps and bounds when the county hits another growth spurt.
Effingham County officials have tried to work to solve their traffic woes, but they have been rebuffed by Chatham County officials, even though Effingham’s and west Chatham’s problems are not only similar, they’re shared. It’s taken stern words from state Rep. Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) to deliver a message to the Chatham leadership that the Effingham Parkway is going to get done.
“Buddy is working very hard on our behalf,” county commission Chairwoman Verna Phillips said. “We’re looking for a conduit out of Effingham County.”
Much of the stress on Effingham’s roads in the future, perhaps the very near future, may not even be any of Effingham’s own doing. The port terminals at Savannah are doing booming business and are expected to expand even faster in the future. What that means, especially for a busy container port such as the Garden City terminal, is more truck traffic coming in and out of the port.
That means there could be substantially more heavy trucks on Highway 21, the main route for most of Effingham’s population into Savannah. The majority of the drivers use Highway 21 to get to and from their jobs in Chatham County.
The Savannah ports are one of the state’s top economic engines, and the state has made a commitment to making the ports one of the best and busiest on the Eastern seaboard. But with that comes the burden of more traffic, traffic that will have an impact on Effingham County, directly and indirectly.
If the ports are getting this much emphasis and support from the state, shouldn’t it be incumbent upon the state, or somebody, to make sure the roads are in place to handle the increased traffic?