Columbia County in recent years has been blessed with accolades from national media, with the community honored in numerous "best" lists related to quality of life.
The county recently received a less-flattering honor. On Thursday, residents can find out what county officials are doing about it.
TRIP, a Washington, D.C., transportation research organization, released a report, "Georgia's Transportation Chokepoints" that names the top 50 roads and routes that "provide inadequate mobility."
Congratulations to us: Squeaking in at last place on the list is Washington Road, from Interstate 20 to Belair Road.
Few of the thousands of motorists traveling the route daily would deny that it needs improvements, though they might have a tough time deciphering the fix TRIP suggests. The report says Washington Road needs to be widened "between Davis Road to River Watch Parkway." Not only is Washington Road already five lanes at that point - not two, as the report says - but Washington Road parallels River Watch without crossing it.
Still, the main idea comes across: The road qualifies as one of Georgia's worst traffic "chokepoints."
Columbia County officials have made it clear they've gotten the message, even though it's sometimes seemed that they've had to fight the state Department of Transportation to get it across.
The details are sometimes lost on local residents, but the fact is that Washington Road is a state highway. Its design and maintenance are a state responsibility. That doesn't stop locals from complaining to local officials, so in recent years the county has simply jumped in to widen the highway with local funds instead of waiting at the end of a lengthening DOT backlog.
That's how the dangerous section of Washington Road in front of Goodwill got a turning lane, and that's how the section around North Belair Road got additional lanes and a turning lane: The county fixed the state's road.
The next step in this very-expensive adopt-a-highway program is the county's plan to widen Washington Road from Gibbs Road to William Few Parkway, using some $39 million borrowed from the county's next series of sales taxes. County officials will hold an open house from 5-7 p.m. Thursday at Evans Middle School to show what those plans will look like, including the land the county will need to purchase to make enough room for the wider highway.
If the plan goes forward, it will still be a couple of years before the work gets underway. In the meantime, traffic will remain "choked" on Washington Road.
Hang on just a little longer. Help is on the way.
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