If you’re a current subscriber, log in below. If you would like to subscribe, please click the subscribe tab above.
Username and Password Help
Grady County officials say they could not have received more welcome news than the copy of a letter from the Georgia Department of Transportation that Grady County Commission Chairman Phillip Drew received via email Thursday.
In the letter, dated April 5, Meg B. Pirkle, P.E., the chief engineer with the Georgia Department of Transportation, wrote to advise Chairman Drew that the D.O.T. is adding the Pine Park Road bridge to the state’s Local Bridge Program and will cover the cost of full replacement of the existing bridge.
“When we went to Atlanta on March 11 to meet with Commissioner (Russell) McMurry we left with the belief that the D.O.T. commissioner knew a considerable amount about the transportation infrastructure challenges faced here. We also came back to Cairo after that meeting with the belief he would do everything he could to help us. I guess our instincts were accurate,” Chairman Drew said this week.
Drew led a local delegation including Grady County Commission Vice Chairman Keith Moye and county administrator J.C. (Buddy) Johnson III, last month to meet with the state transportation chief, a meeting arranged and attended by District 173 State Representative Darlene Taylor.
“Representative Taylor has always been very responsive when we’ve contacted her for help at the state level. She was instrumental in arranging for us to meet with the commissioner and she is always working behind the scenes lobbying for our community. We appreciate her more than we can say,” Drew said.
“This is an amazing and extremely welcomed gesture of good will from the Georgia Department of Transportation and Commissioner McMurry. Their willingness to listen to our needs and then act upon them is a true sign of a great relationship between our governing entities. I am thankful for Representative Taylor’s help in this matter and we are more than joyful for the outcome of our meeting in Atlanta a few weeks back,” administrator Johnson said.
Based on Pirkle’s letter, engineering for the new bridge will take place in the state’s fiscal year 2023, which begins July 1, 2022, and construction will be funded in FY2026, which begins July 1, 2025.
During the March 11 meeting between local officials and the D.O.T. commissioner, it was stressed that the bridge is unsafe for the truck traffic that utilizes Pine Park Road. Chief engineer Pirkle noted in her letter, “Our bridge engineers have determined that temporary repairs will not result in being able to remove the weight restrictions.”
Commissioner McMurry has also committed to providing additional state funding to be combined with local Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax proceeds for the resurfacing and rehabilitation of Pine Park Road, which all officials say is in “horrible” condition.
Representative Taylor also expressed her excitement concerning the D.O.T. commitment.
“I am delighted and glad that our county board of commissioners was able to make the case on how important it was and the state is able to meet our need in Grady County,” Representative Taylor said.
Administrator Johnson said that thanks also goes to the voters of Grady County for supporting the local TSPLOST.
“It should also be mentioned that the citizens of Grady County and their willingness to support the local TSPLOST is the greatest benefactor and leverage we possessed going into this venture. Helping ourselves goes along way to getting help from others,” Johnson said.
The D.O.T. commissioner told local leaders during the March 11 meeting that he was very interested in assisting communities like Grady County, where voters had approved a Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax. The commissioner said communities that have implemented a TSPLOST are doing all they can to help themselves and he favors assisting those communities with state financing.
The county is working with its consulting engineer, Stacy Watkins, to complete engineering for the Pine Park Road project. Commissioner McMurry indicated to county leaders that if Grady County can get the engineering back to him shortly, there is the possibility of some state funds being appropriated for Pine Park Road in the state’s current fiscal year, which ends June 30 and potentially more money in the 2021-2022 fiscal year, which begins July 1.
Both McMurry and county officials said the project likely would be done in phases, which could add to the length of time to complete the entire project.
Grady County administrator Johnson said the board’s goal is to “spread the love” around the county by maximizing on state investments and freeing up local sales tax proceeds to tackle other road improvement projects around the county.