MOULTRIE -- A $5.25 million windfall for the Georgia Highway 133 widening project could be held up in Congress and delayed until the beginning of the next legislative session.
Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., and Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Savannah, went to bat for the 80-mile four-laning project to which local economies from Albany to Valdosta are hitching their hopes and aspirations. Colquitt County, situated right in the middle of it, is particularly pushing the project.
Chambliss asked for $4 million and Kingston $1.25 million in direct appropriations in addition to $55 million sought through the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA 21) with the anticipation that a compromise figure would be reached. Much to the lawmakers' delight, both requests passed through the transportation appropriations conference committee intact.
Now, the funding proposal is lumped into the appropriations omnibus bill set to go before the House for an up or down vote Monday. However, there are rumblings in the Senate that could stall a vote until next year, Kingston staff said.
"We worked hard all year to secure these funds to help widen Highway 133 from Albany to Valdosta," Chambliss said. "Widening Highway 133 will bring more jobs and economic development to Colquitt, Dougherty, Worth, Brooks and Lowndes counties. This project will help ensure that transportation infrastructure continues to enhance local development and provides a safe, secure route between two important military bases."
Colquitt County Chair Max Hancock said the $5.25 million indicated to him that "they know we're here."
"It's not a project that can happen overnight. It's going to take some time. It's taken more time than I hoped it would, but it's not taken near as long as what (Georgia Department of Transportation) originally projected -- 2020. ... If we keep pushing for it, calling our people and keeping it before them, I think it will move up the schedule," Hancock said. "The noisy wheel gets the grease. It always does."
The roadway is on the Governor's Road Improvement Program, although on the long-range project list. The environmental phase of the project currently is under way funded through state bond sales.
TEA 21 appropriations are held up still by a controversial federal gas tax proposal to fund those projects, Kingston staff said.