By Justin Reedy
Drivers along Flint River or Tara roads could have a much smoother ride in the next couple of years.
Clayton County's budget for the upcoming fiscal year n which begins July 1 n includes about $2.5 million for improving a handful of the county's worst roads. The budget was approved Tuesday.
The budget for the upcoming fiscal year spells out $124 million in county government spending n an increase of about $6 million from last year n but does not call for an increase in property taxes.
Two of the projects expected to be included in the road package are the widening of Tara Road and Flint River Road, according to county Transportation Director Wayne Patterson.
The county plans to improve Tara Road in southern Clayton County by widening it to include a center turn lane from Panhandle Road to Tara Boulevard. The portion of Flint River Road from Kendrick Road to Tara Boulevard would be widened to four lanes with a grass median in the center, Patterson said.
For people who drive along Flint River Road east of Jonesboro, extra lanes would be a welcome change for a road often clogged by traffic congestion during rush hour.
"They need to widen it and repave it," said Jonesboro resident Cassundra Jett, who travels the road often to visit her aunt. "Adding more lanes would help."
"It helped out quite a bit when they put that center turn lane in further down the road," added Atlanta resident Derek Manders, who takes Flint River Road when visiting friends.
The Tara Road project also is one that could benefit residents in southern Clayton County, since so many people use the road to access the Kroger shopping center at Tara Road and Tara Boulevard.
"I would definitely say there's quite a bit of congestion any time you go through there," said Hampton resident Emmette Carroll. "I'd say some improvements to that road would be helpful, for sure."
Some of the other priority projects that the county could work on this year, Patterson said, include the extension of Garden Walk Boulevard from Ga. Highway 85 to Southern Regional Medical Center, improving Panola Road and widening Anvilblock Road.
But the county, which is facing a sales tax revenue shortfall because of the economic recession, may not be able to afford all of those projects, officials say, let alone other needed road improvements and maintenance. That's why county officials are pushing for a 1 percent sales tax increase to pay for road projects and improvements to the county's recreation facilities. Voters will decide the issue in September.