Some road construction projects in Columbia County might get postponed, state lawmakers said at a Wednesday breakfast meeting.
Because of a budget shortfall, the Georgia Department of Transportation recently de-prioritized $7.7 billion worth of road projects scheduled for construction or study in the next six years.
State Sen. Jim Whitehead, R-Evans, referred to the situation as "the elephant out there fixin' to stampede" at a prelegislative breakfast sponsored by the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce and held at Savannah Rapids Pavilion.
In the next 15 to 20 years, Georgia's population is expected to swell from 9 million to 14 million, which adds to the severity of the transportation problem, Whitehead said.
When the state Legislature convenes in January, "the most critical issue we will deal with" will be transportation problems, said state Rep.-elect Barbara Sims, R-Augusta.
"We have a challenge to get our infrastructure ready for the heavy number of people who are coming," she said.
Addressing the DOT budget shortfall will be a priority in the upcoming legislative session, said state Rep. Ben Harbin, R-Evans, who is the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
"We can't build the roads fast enough," he said.
A project to expand Flowing Wells Road might be affected by the budget cuts, Harbin said.
Other projects in jeopardy because of the budget shortfall, Whitehead said, include the widening of Washington Road near Pollards Corner and the construction of passing lanes on Ray Owens Road near Keg Creek.
Other legislators in attendance at the meeting included Lt. Governor-elect Casey Cagle and state Rep. Barry Fleming, R-Harlem.
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