SPECIAL REPORT: What factors go into Columbia County road projects?

COLUMBIA COUNTY, Ga.(WJBF) – It seems every time you turn around, Columbia County continues to add new neighborhoods and businesses.

But, drivers say the roads aren’t keeping up with the rapid growth.

Road construction seems to be the talk of Columbia County.

Infrastructure is even part of Columbia County candidate’s platform as they work to get your vote in the upcoming election.

“Everywhere you go in Columbia County, there’s road work, traffic, construction,” said Resident Damien Page.

Beckye Smith remembers what Columbia County roads were like back in the 70’s.

“I’ve seen it when it was two lanes. Now, it’s four lanes,” said Smith.

Also, since the 70’s in Columbia County, major growth when it comes to neighborhoods and businesses.

Drivers say it seems as if the roads can’t keep up.

“When you’re looking at a rapidly growing county like this, the public infrastructure is always going to lag the development because development in the private sector can move a lot faster,” said Traffic Engineering Director Steve Cassell.

Cassell says getting a road project started isn’t as easy as you may think.

Cassell says some road projects can take years to get off the ground.

“You look at a good solid roadway project like Hardy McManus Road, you’re looking the soonest you could ever build that would be seven to eight years,” said Cassell.

Cassell says that’s because there’s a lot of preparation before the dirt starts moving on a project.

“You’re going after federal funds, you’ve got environmental studies and all the work that goes in leading up to that and then you have to get into right away acquisition,” said Cassell.

Cassell says if the county is relying on federal funding, it can take even longer to get road work underway.

“You have to go through a lot more processes with environmental, you’re looking at historic boundaries, environmental justice. There are a lot of hurdles you have to overcome,” said Cassell.

With local funding that residents voted on– TIA money– Cassell says the county has more leeway.

‘Furys Ferry Road, Lewiston Road… these are state roads. Typically, that funding would come from the state but luckily, because it was affecting our citizens, we chipped in and got the money for it get these projects built,” said Cassell.

In the end, Cassell says the numerous road projects are a sign of progress, working to keep up as the county continues to flourish.

“As this growth comes and continues to come, hopefully people will recognize that we’re planning for the future,” said Cassell.

If you use Flowing Wells Road during your commute, you know it’s bumper to bumper during peak hours.

Cassell says the county is looking to send that widening project out to bid next year and hopefully get construction underway within the next year and a half.

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