The future of the Hwy. 72 expansion and bypass project won’t be revealed until early 2009.
That’s when the Georgia Department of Transportation hopes to finish its reprioritizing all road projects in the state.
The Hwy. 72 project plans call for the continued expansion of the highway from two lanes to four lanes and the creation of a Comer-Carlton bypass.
But the state department was forced to revamp its entire road improvement and construction schedule when an audit revealed that the DOT had a $456 million shortfall.
“The prioritization process is still going on, so we have not gotten a list or anything yet of where that’s going to fall,” Mark McKinnon of the Georgia DOT said. “They are telling us it’s going to be the first part of the year (when) they should have something.”
The DOT had originally hoped to finish this process before the end of the year.
“Yeah, that’s what they said,” McKinnon said. “Now they’re telling us January or February, I guess.” McKinnon added that, “there’s a lot of projects there. So I guess it’s just taking them longer than they thought it would.”.
McKinnon doesn’t know the specific criteria being used to rank a project like the Hwy. 72 expansion during this reprioritization process.
“They’ve got specifics, but they’re not telling us what they are,” McKinnon said. “It’s a very small group of the upper management who are trying to go through these projects one-by-one really.”
However, McKinnon did say that traffic patterns and traffic counts were being studied and that the DOT is basing the value of a project “on the needs of the community.”
“They don’t want to build a big, wide road somewhere that nobody’s going to use and neglect one that is really needed somewhere,” McKinnon said.
No construction money has been attached to the Hwy. 72 expansion project, but, as of October, the DOT had authorized the purchase 21 parcels out of 129 needed to expand the road and build the bypass.
“There are a number of criteria (to be considered),” McKinnon said. “I’m sure that if right of way has been purchased, that that is something that they’re looking at. We’ve already got an investment in the area. I would think that would certainly be a part of it.”
McKinnon said several there are several interested parties awaiting word from the DOT concerning the future of local road improvements.
“We’re getting some from the media, but we’re also getting calls from a lot of local officials, county commissioners … they’re wanting to know where their projects are,” he said.