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GDOT accepting applications for improvement projects

By Maria-Jose Subiria

msubiria@news-daily.com

The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) has announced it will accept applications for needed enhancement projects in local cities and counties throughout the state.

Mark McKinnon, a spokesman for the department, said the State Transportation Board will accept applications for the Transportation Enhancement (TE) program from Oct. 1, through 3 p.m., on Dec. 15. County and local governments should apply by visiting http://gdot-web2.dot.state.ga.us/CTSA_LOCAL.

McKinnon explained that the State Transportation Board is composed of 13 board members, representing the 13 congressional districts in Georgia.

The TE program uses federal funds to help pay for transportation facilities, including, streetscape projects, landscaping projects, historic preservation of transportation-related facilities, scenic preservation of views, scenic byways and walking and biking trails and paths, said McKinnon.

"Over the past 20 years, more than 900 projects have been selected," said Rudy Bowen, chairman of the State Transportation Board. "These projects enhance communities and improve quality of life for all Georgians."

The Federal Highway Administration will fund up to 80 percent of a TE project, and the local government will be responsible for funding the rest of the project's cost, said McKinnon.

"The local government ... is responsible for implementing the TE project and obtaining federal reimbursement from Georgia DOT," he said.

McKinnon said the projects are selected by the State Transportation Board, with the recommendations of transportation-project experts within GDOT, and the Transportation Enhancement Advisory Panel, formed in 1992.

"The advisory panel group of professionals, representing state-wide expertise in the various TE project categories, will evaluate each application and forward its recommendations to the State Transportation Board," said McKinnon. "Final selection of the funded projects will be announced in April [2011]."

McKinnon said GDOT won't receive the money from the federal government, until the selected TE projects are chosen. The quantity GDOT will be eligible for will be decided by the federal government, he explained, during a phone interview. This is the reason the amount of funds GDOT will acquire is unknown at this time, he said.

Though GDOT received several hundred applications last year, "I think we [GDOT] will get more [applications] than we [typically] would, because many cities and counties in the state are strapped for cash," he said.

The board, he said, typically selects projects that will benefit large numbers of people within an given area. The TE program was established in 1991 by the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA), said McKinnon. The program continued to operate through the ISTEA until 2005, when the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act, "superseded" it.