By Justin Boron

Robert Whitaker used to teeter along the shoulder of Southlake Parkway when he walked anywhere from his home in Windsor Landing.

A trip to the Circle K on Mt. Zion Road was a nervous tight rope walk, he said, in which he dodged cars scathing by him in dark at 50 mph Leisurely evening walks to the Circle K were impossible.

A new sidewalk stretching from Mt. Zion Boulevard to Mt. Zion Road has transformed trips to Circle K or Best Buy a relaxed stroll.

He even said he no longer worries about ruining the sparkle of his new shoes by jumping into a mud puddle to avoid a passing car.

The sidewalk installed for $119,000 is part of the $30 million in funds from special local option sales tax that Clayton County estimates it will allocate to transportation improvement projects by the end of 2004.

The apartment complexes rubbing up against the new sidewalk said they have noticed the difference in the accommodation of their resident's needs.

"For those people who enjoy walking for exercise, it's an excellent idea. My residents have taken advantage of the new sidewalk," said Angelia Leary, the assistant manager of Indian Creek Apartments on Southlake Parkway.

Winding down through Mt. Zion Road through a residential district, the sidewalk eventually meets up with Jonesboro High School where students have encountered safety and health benefits to the pedestrian access, said the school's assistant principal, Michael Hayes.

"Its helped tremendously for half a year because we're renovating the vocation building which the sidewalk runs right by," he said. "When kids exit the building, they go around the building and can connect with the sidewalk."

To date, the county has encumbered $23,448,060 in design projects, intersection realignments, road resurfacing, railroad crossing improvements, and sidewalk installations.

The 2004 SPLOST projects were prioritized according to their safety needs, said Wayne Patterson, the director of transportation and development.

One of the highlights of the transportation projects for the project's manager has been the railroad crossing upgrades.

Terry Legvold, the SPLOST program manager and a consultant for CH2M Hill, said the new railroad crossings have shown incredible success in their ability to permit a smoother ride over the tracks than in the past.

The intersection realignments are in their study phase and won't reach construction until at least 2005 SPLOST, he said.

The success of the SPLOST program eight months into existence has already created remarkable changes in the county, said Lenard Scroggins, a civil engineer for the county.

"Its real exciting to be able to complete all the projects that we need. We wouldn't have the funds without SPLOST," he said.

But Scroggins said he realizes that even when SPLOST ends in four years, there will still be more issues that will need to be addressed.

"Its up to us to give the citizens a good product so we can vote SPLOST in again," he said.