The largest project in the Southwest Georgia Regional Commission’s project list for the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax runs right through the middle of Colquitt County.
Highway 133 is a mostly two-lane artery from Albany to Valdosta that local economic development officials have wanted to four-lane for more than 20 years. Moultrie-Colquitt County Chamber of Commerce President Darrell Moore once described finding a chamber newsletter dated 1989 in which the chamber urged its membership to seek legislators’ support for the project.
The TSPLOST, which voters throughout the region will decide upon July 31, offers the best chance to make that project a reality, Moultrie Mayor Bill McIntosh said in a recent interview.
“This makes it a viable project we’re going to see in our lifetime,” said McIntosh, a member of the executive committee that helped determine the final project list.
The construction totals more than 66 miles in four counties, split into nine projects by the state Department of Transportation. Colquitt, Worth and Dougherty counties are in the Southwest Georgia Region, while Brooks is in the Southern Georgia Region. Each region votes on the tax separately; the Brooks County portion of 133 is on the project list for its region’s TSPLOST vote, which is also being held July 31.
The DOT estimates the project will cost more than $271 million — about half of the $530 million the Southwest Region’s tax is expected to bring in over its 10-year lifespan. In a presentation to the Moultrie Rotary Club, Dan Bollinger of the Southwest Georgia Regional Commission said, “We knew that wasn’t going to fly.”
Instead, the tax would pay part of the expense, according to DOT documents. The tax would be used in Colquitt County to four-lane from U.S. Highway 319 (Tifton Hghway) to the Colquitt-Worth county line. The 13.87-mile project is expected to cost $65.8 million; the transportation sales tax would pay $53 million. No one has said where the other $12.8 million will come from.
Further south on Highway 133, two other projects will be funded by the state, not the TSPLOST.
One of those projects extends from Hawthorne Drive to Veterans Parkway, where the highway is already four lanes. This project includes adding a median with turn lanes, according to the DOT website. A DOT spokesman said even if TSPLOST is not approved, that section is approved for construction in 2014, based on availability of funding.
From Hawthorne Drive to the Brooks County line is the southernmost part of the project in Colquitt County. It’s not a TSPLOST project either, but the Regional Commission’s Bollinger said DOT Deputy Commissioner Todd Long has committed to four-laning that section with state and federal money if the region passes TSPLOST to pay for the rest of the work.
Documents provided in association with the transportation sales tax referendum say the Highway 133 projects funded by TSPLOST in Dougherty, Colquitt and Brooks counties (if passed by their respective regions) would begin construction between the fourth and seventh years of the tax — 2016-2019, if passed this year. The project in Worth County is not included on the TSPLOST project list.
A fact sheet from the DOT’s website, www.dot.ga.gov, broke down the timeline by project. All projects are in the preliminary plan development phase, it said, which is the third of six phases prior to actual construction.
Right-of-way acquisition is going on now for the projects from Berlin to the Brooks-Lowndes county line, and it is planned for the current fiscal year for the two projects from Moultrie’s Veterans Parkway to Berlin. Right-of-way acquisition is planned for fiscal year 2014 for all the other projects.
According to the DOT fact sheet, construction is planned for:
• FY 2014, eastern Brooks County.
• FY 2015, Hawthorne Drive to Veterans Parkway in Moultrie. (The state’s fiscal year runs from July 1 to June 30, so this statement doesn’t necessarily contradict the DOT spokesman above. Construction beginning July 1-Dec. 31, 2014, would be in calendar year 2014 but fiscal year 2015.)
• FY 2016, Doerun to Moultrie.
• FY 2017, Pauline Church Road to Old Quitman Adel Road in Brooks County.
• FY 2017, from County Line Road to Holly Drive in Dougherty County.
• FY 2018, Moultrie to Berlin.
• FY 2019, County Line Road in Dougherty County to State Route 112 in Worth County.
• FY 2019, from SR112 in Worth County to Doerun.
• FY 2019, from Old Berlin Road in Colquitt County to Old Quitman-Adel Road in Brooks County.
The fact sheet does not indicate which projects are planned for construction first within a fiscal year. This fact sheet does not specifically say so, but other communications with the DOT indicate the schedules are dependent on the availability of funding.