The Richmond County planning staff is looking 25 years into the future to develop a long-range transportation plan for the region that likely will include several road-widening projects in Columbia County.
The Metropolitan Planning Organization is conducting a study to identify transportation projects that are financially feasible and will be needed through 2035 in urbanized portions of Columbia, Richmond, Aiken and Edgefield counties.
"Because our planning efforts are funded federally, and up to 80 percent of the funding for any of the projects is federal funds, it's a requirement that we update the plan every five years," said Paul DeCamp, Richmond County's planning director.
With Columbia County's population estimated at 169,093 people by 2035, nearly every main road in the county will likely need to be widened to accommodate an increase in traffic, said Columbia County planner Dave Van De Weghe.
"I think that once the study is completed, it'll be very interesting to see what sort of improvements Columbia County is going to have to make to the roads," said Van De Weghe, who represents the county on the group's advisory committee. "It's going to be significant road widening projects that'll be required with all the growth that we're having."
Columbia County projects likely to be included in this year's update are widening sections of Furys Ferry Road, Washington Road and Interstate 20, De Camp said.
The study encompasses all types of transportation projects, including highway construction, public transportation, and bike and pedestrian paths.
Areas in and around Evans, Martinez and Grovetown are part of the study.
The update, which takes about a year, should be finished by the end of summer, DeCamp said.
The Augusta Regional Transportation Study is guided by a policy committee that meets quarterly. The group consists of elected officials from each local government as well as state and national transportation representatives.
In an effort to collect public input, members of the community are asked to fill out a brief survey that can be found on the county's Web site at www.columbiacountyga.gov until the end of March. The survey is designed to target citizens' needs and any problem areas in the region.
"We'll use that information as part as the overall plan to program additional facilities to meet those needs," DeCamp said. "It might not be everywhere that people expect it to be, because we look at it regionally."
The next public meeting will be held in Augusta's municipal building in May.
Though a project might be included in the updated plan, it can still take several years before any type of construction begins.
"It's like anything else," DeCamp said. "The needs are a lot greater than the money that's available in any given year. Eventually, these projects get done."
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