GDOT discusses potential widening of Vernon Road

Published 9:45 am Saturday, March 2, 2024

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During a called meeting on Friday morning at the Oakfuskee Conservation Center, the Troup County Board of Commissioners, along with LaGrange city officials, met with representatives from the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) to discuss state transportation projects within the Troup County.

Officials met with GDOT District Engineer Tyler Peek and District 3 GDOT Board Member Dennis McEntire to discuss a slew of ongoing and upcoming traffic projects.

The meeting comes as the county plans to finalize its countywide transportation plan. County Engineer James Emery gave an overview of the plan during the Feb. 20 commissioners meeting. The plan contains around 300 projects ranging from the conceptual phase to ones that are currently under construction. The overall plan is set to be finalized as early as the March 5 Board of Commissioners meeting.

Among the projects discussed was a potential widening of Vernon Road as it comes into town just past the new Publix shopping center to at least Broad Street.

“The proposed footprint is a three-lane section, so you’d have a single lane in each direction with a center turn lane including most likely including some type of sidewalk or trail connection,” Peek said.

It would also allow for the ability to turn left onto Broad Street, which is currently prohibited, he said.

Peek said they are trying to limit the impact, particularly to utilities because there are a lot of utilities close to the road. He said they could try to relocate everything, but that just adds cost of right-of-way acquisition. For that reason, most of the work will likely be on the north side of Vernon.

“We have funding that carries us through proving the concept and then our next discussion will be funding for construction for the rest of the engineering, for the right-of-way and construction,” Peek said.

“We’ll have to determine what funding year and what funding category,” Peek said.

Peek added that there’s an opportunity for the city or county to supplement the funds for the project to advance the phases.

“I know that’s a project that has a lot of local interest and it’s a choke point on the state route system,” he said.

Peek said widening it to four lanes is also a possibility, but it would be much more expensive.

“It’s not out of the question. It’s just that’s an additional 20 feet at least of right-of-way to purchase and all that much more utility impact so that could become cost prohibitive. It’s really the reason we’re landing on a three-lane option,” Peek said.

Peek said the project could take several years to engineer and construct aside from finding funding for it.

“Just to engineer a project like that you’re probably looking at a couple of years to complete engineering … and another 12 months of right-of-way, so you’re looking at three years before you would be able to go to bid. Then I would expect that to be an 18 to 24-month construction time,” Peek said.

Peek indicated that the county or city paying for a portion of the project could help expedite the process and potentially move it higher on the list of GDOT projects.

McEntire asked if the county has considered a local T-SPLOST, which could be used to subsidize similar projects as well as fund repairs and construction of local roads.

Commissioner Morris Jones indicated that might be a possibility in the future but he isn’t sure the voters would approve it.

“I’m just wondering whether Troup County is going to pass another [regular] SPLOST the way we are going,” Jones said.

Similar regional T-SPLOSTs have helped smaller cities and counties get the road improvements they need when GDOT funds are low.

“The facts are, as big a budget as GDOT has, close to $4 billion, it’s not even close to being adequate to take care of all the needs in our state,” McEntire said. “If you can live with the planning process, which means we’ll get to it in 2036 — and we’ll be excited to be able to tell you that — but if you want to speed it up, you’re competing with everybody else.”