By Valerie Baldowski
Federal stimulus money is making it easier for Henry and Clayton counties to continue with some of their transportation-related projects.
Friday, Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue's office announced that the governor has submitted a "1511 Certification" to the U.S. Department of Transportation, on transportation projects in metro Atlanta, which will be funded through the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Henry and Clayton counties will get about $1.6 million to upgrade traffic signals along Georgia Highway 138 at 12 different locations in the two counties.
According to David Spear, press secretary for the Georgia Department of Transportation, the Highway 138 traffic signal upgrades will be at the intersections of: Spivey Road; Mount Zion Parkway/Speer Road; interstates 75 and 675; Hannover Parkway; Davidson Parkway; Daniel Drive; Walter Way, and Georgia Highway 42.
Additionally, the City of Locust Grove will get $345,083 to help finance phase II of its Downtown Streetscape project.
Spear said the signalization upgrades will include new lights at some intersections, and replacement components on other lights. All of the lights will also be synchronized, he said.
The work is expected to improve traffic flow along Highway 138 and on the side streets. Spears said the synchronization is long overdue. "We've needed to synchronize them [the lights] for the last five years," he said.
The state synchronizes the lights periodically, he said, but lightning strikes, accidents or normal wear and tear can cause them to go out of sync.
Tim Young, development director for Locust Grove, said the city's second phase of its Streetscape Project involves relocating Locust Grove's Public Works facility -- which is a prefabricated, metal building -- from its present location on Cleveland Street.
"We're moving it to an area near the Locust Grove Conference Center, at Davis Lake Road and Mose Brown Drive," Young said. The grading work for the building's new site has already begun, he said.
When the building is completely moved, Young said, plans are to replace it with a one-acre park and a 31-space parking lot.
The work is part of the city's revitalization plans, he continued, and it is another step toward the construction of a multi-use trail system.
Young said the availability of the federal stimulus money means the city will not have to depend on other sources of federal funding, which sometimes can take considerably longer. "For us, it helped speed up the project," he said.
Spear said the money for the work will be available as needed. "The money itself won't necessarily be forwarded to local governments," he explained. "In most instances, it will just be drawn against the federal government, much like a line of credit, to finance the construction."
The local governments will do the work, then submit their invoices to be paid, Spear said.
"They won't get an upfront stimulus check per se, but once we and the federal government have certified that bills from the project's eventual contractor are correct, the federal government will forward the county, or us, the money to pay them," he said.
Taking into account the current economy, Spear said that without the federal funding, the local governments most likely would not have been able to afford the work on their own.
"Their funding situation is as acute as ours," he added.