Reichert pushes Sardis Church Road extension, other roads funding

Funding remains holdup on many planned projects

jgaines@macon.comFebruary 5, 2014 

Mayor Robert Reichert pushed Wednesday for quicker action on extending Sardis Church Road, coupling that with a call to again look for more transportation funding.

Using a longer Sardis Church Road to give the Middle Georgia Regional Airport direct interstate access has been a priority of Reichert’s for years. Jack Reed of the Georgia Department of Transportation described the project -- with construction slated to begin in 2016 -- as “on schedule,” but Reichert said that’s a year behind the original plan.

Now there’s a chance to get back on track, with Georgia Power hinting that it may agree to bear most of the $1.6 million cost of moving power lines for the work, Reichert said at a Wednesday morning meeting of the Macon Area Transportation Study policy committee. He urged GDOT to absorb an additional $160,000 or so in costs to keep the process going.

But in that case and in many others now deemed “long range” projects, there’s a pressing need to find more funding sources for transportation work, Reichert said.

The General Assembly is taking another look at some form of transportation special purpose local option sales tax, he said.

A T-SPLOST vote in 2012 passed in just three of 13 regional commission districts statewide. Reichert held up the one-page local project sheet, on which most items are stalled due to lack of funding.

“Those areas in our state that passed the T-SPLOST, their planning document is two, three, four pages long,” he said.

Noise barriers

Nick Pietrzak, from the MATS citizen advisory committee, said he couldn’t get the GDOT website to work when he tried to comment on a noise-barrier construction plan associated with the widening of Interstate 75. His messages left with consulting firm Moreland Altobelli went unanswered, he said.

Reichert said GDOT officials at Wednesday’s meeting surely would look into the website issue, but Pietrzak said a larger issue is that similar noise barriers should be built along the length of I-75 through Macon. Though residents are told that can’t be done because more barriers wouldn’t be part of currently considered projects, it’s up to the MATS group to decide what projects are planned for locally, Pietrzak said.

“So it’s up to you to protect the city. It’s up to you to do this,” he said.

Reichert said if noise walls aren’t associated with a particular interstate project, the federal government won’t cover the cost of them. Local governments legally could build such walls on their own, but that’s prohibitively expensive.

Heritage trail

Money is on hand for an extension of the Ocmulgee Heritage Trail, and contracts for the work could be let in July, GDOT officials said. The new trail section would run on the east side of the river to connect with existing trails at Ocmulgee National Monument, Reichert said.

Committee leadership

Choosing its leaders at their first meeting in 2014, MATS policy committee members left Reichert in the chairman’s job. New Macon-Bibb County Commissioner Scotty Shepherd was chosen as the new vice chairman. There were no other nominees for either job.

To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.

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