So, Columbia County and the Georgia Department of Transportation have hired a consultant to gather information for three months, and then report on the countys transportation needs?
We could have saved them some money. Dont these folks ever take a ride down Washington Road?
Certainly, Commissioner Tom Mercer has. He notes that his priority for improvements is Washington Road between Flowing Wells and Halali Farm Road.
That dangerous stretch of road has to be top of the list in any road-improvement plan. There are other feeder roads that need work, too - Flowing Wells itself, for example, and Industrial Park Drive. But Washing-ton Road, with its four lanes and no turning lane, isnt a disaster waiting to happen - its a calamity happening almost every day.
After a recent presentation kicking off the study, TEI Engineers & Planners are taking public comments in writing and through a Web site. Their in box is likely to overflow if even a fraction of Washington Roads frustrated commuters sign on.
In any event, a comprehensive plan for improving Columbia Countys congested roads is good. Actually getting the work underway would be even better.
All jabs about Washington Road aside, the move to hire TEI for $100,000 - $27,000 from Columbia County, the rest from the state - will be worth it if, as the countys Planning and Development Director Jeff Browning says, the result is to reconcile our growth habits with hodge-podge plans for road construction and improvement.
In other words, we have to figure out if the roads on public-planners books match up to traffic demands fueled by the aggressive efforts of private developers.
In discussing the TEI study, Browning raises an important point about the transportation-planning process, for which no crystal ball can ever give a perfect preview. In an effort to get projects started, and to cultivate state assistance, local planners sometimes overstate the necessity for a particular project. The effort can then backfire when the project is designed to meet the inflated need, and then comes in at too high a price tag. As a result, the whole thing is delayed because of cost.
North Belair Road may be an example, Browning says. The traffic projections for that project were marginal to justify four-laning unless some large unanticipated development came along. Its a welcome irony for residents along the road who want North Belair left alone, and it confirms what we suspected all along: Those pushing the project overhyped the need for it, and they may have outsmarted themselves by jacking up North Belairs potential cost and thereby pushing it to the back burner.
The need for Washington Road improvements sure hasnt been overstated - though in the words of an infamous country song, residents would like to see a little less talk and a lot more action.
The county already has a good plan for the segment of Washington Road between Ronald Reagan Drive and North Belair: Combine existing entrance and exit lanes to the busy four-lane road, and repaint the whole thing to create five lanes with a center turn lane.
That will take care of the worst few blocks of road - and TEIs study should offer ways to improve the rest. It cant come too soon: Motorists, tired of being stuck in traffic, are getting impatient.
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