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A new report by the Georgia PIRG Education Fund calls the Effingham Parkway an example of an unjustified highway expansion. Officials are still planning to channel funds to build the highway, despite data that fail to support its construction. While prospects for the larger $100 million state-funded version of the new highway have been deferred, country officials are still seeking scarce transportation funds to spend on an initial two-lane road, which the report identifies as a “boondoggle.”
The study also details ten other wasteful highway expansions across the country. It shows that Effingham officials have justified the project based on the need to relieve traffic congestion on the parallel Route 21. The report points to data showing traffic along Route 21 has failed to increase at forecasted rates. In some places, traffic levels remain unchanged or are even decreasing. The report calls for the state and county to prioritize scarce transportation dollars for other more important projects.
“Why are county officials still pushing to divert funds to an unneeded highway when there isn’t enough money to maintain existing roads?” asked Phineas Baxandall, a coauthor of the report. “The Effingham Parkway is like a zombie highway project. There’s no reason for it to be alive, but it continues to stumble forward, plaguing the living. County officials continue to plan for building this road, neglecting other priorities.”
Last month, Effingham County administrator, Toss Allen said, “We have $7 million worth of road repairs and a $2 million budget. We’re trying to figure out how to make all of this work. One of the holdups we have is trying to figure out how to make our dollars last for all the road work we have.”
Said Baxandall, “The first step to shore up the existing transportation system should be to stop diverting money to new highway expansion projects that aren’t needed.”
The proposed Effingham Parkway is a $37.4 million two-lane road that would run parallel to the existing Georgia Route 21. Connecting the new highway to other existing local roads will require spending an additional $11.5 million on nearby road work that county officials hope to begin work on in 2017. State plans for a four-lane highway costing $100 million did not receive state funds but remain on the state priority list, despite the lack of data to support such an undertaking.
The full report can be viewed here.
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