Sidewalks to be complete after 15 years of red tape
The journey of a sidewalk project for Gray and Jones County has the proverbial tortoise looking like a speed demon.
Orange barrels and silt fences that have sprung up on Highway 18 and Cumslo Road are indicators of where the sidewalks are going. Once the project finally got started, it appeared to be moving relatively quickly, with sidewalks in front of the post office and Ingles nearing completion.
County Administrator Jason Rizner said contractors received a notice to proceed July 30, and they have 180 days, or six months, to complete the project. That sounds fast enough if not considering the project began in 2004 — and that is not a typo.
The second phase of the project includes $640,000 in federal money and a local match of $160,000. The funds are from a Transportation Enhancement Grant and has a 20 percent match.
Rizner said the completion date for the project is Feb. 15, 2019.
The project starts at Jones County High School, heads up Railroad Street to Gordon Street, and another portion runs along Highway 18 past Gray Station Middle School and connects with the existing sidewalk that leads to the Morris Bank Recreation Complex.
A small strip of the sidewalk has already been completed on West Clinton Street in front of the Gray Post Office and Ingles. The final part of the project enhances the main intersection in Haddock.
The first plan for the sidewalk originated with U.S. Congressmen Jim Marshall, who represented Middle Georgia and Jones County from 2003-11. The funding was a part of the Transportation Equity Act of 2004 that totaled $275 billion.
The Congressman was able to earmark $500,000 for sidewalks and bike trails in Gray, and its intention was to provide economic benefits, reduce traffic congestion and ensure pedestrian safety in downtown Gray.
The bill was signed by President George W. Bush in 2005. Jones County Commissioners approved the local project in 2008, and the Georgia Department of Transportation sent approval for Jones County to proceed with the preliminary engineering for the project.
That project ended up being phase 1 of the bike trail and sidewalks project.
Thefundingforthesecond portion of the project was part of the Transportation Enhancement Grants awarded in 2011 and Jones County was awarded funds in the amount of $651,200 for Jones County Trails Phase 2.
Former State Rep. Jim Cole, who was the District Eight representative on the Georgia Transportation Board at the time, was instrumental in securing those funds.
The grant was for sidewalks/bike trails continuing from the original project to connect Gray Station Middle School to the recreation complex.
Cole said he was also a fan of the work of Trish Jordan with the Haddock Revitalization Committee, and Haddock was included in the project.
Jones County PLAN was instrumental in putting the grant application together, which was supported by Jones County’s elected officials, State Reps. Susan Holmes and Bubber Epps and State Sens. Johnny Grant and Cecil Staton.
The TE program is federally funded and was originally established in 1991 by the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA).
Mike Underwood was Jones County’s Administrator for 11 years and dealt with the sidewalk project throughout his career with the county. He said its hold up was partially due to the funding process, but he attributed the biggest delays to the acquisition of rights-of-way.
Underwood said that was especially the case when trying to work with the railroad.
“There were so many complications that we finally decided to stop at the library,” he said.
Rizner came on board in October of 2016 and was able to finalize project details the following January. He and grant administrator Jack Burnside secured a right of entry from the Jones County Board of Education for the trailhead that was located on BOE property.