Georgia to spend $1 billion on rural roads

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue announced plans Aug. 15 to spend more than $1 billion over the next six years to widen rural state highways from two lanes to four, in addition to the $681 million already earmarked to widen congested portions of I-85, I-75 and I-95.

For highway construction companies, this means more business outside of Atlanta, where highway workers are already working to improve the congestion from commuter traffic. Some critics, however, say it”s too much money for rural roads and the funds should go toward major highways and interstates around the capital. Approximately $2.5 billion has already been allocated to roadway expansion and construction in Atlanta until 2010.

Over the past 15 years, Georgia has spent approximately $3.2 billion, mostly borrowed money, on its rural highway program called the Governor’s Road Improvement Program. The loans cost the state nearly $54 million annually in payments, and the Department of Transportation says it will cost another $2.4 billion to complete the corridors identified in the program. As part of Perdue’s newest plan, the state would borrow $4.5 billion in new loans.

According to three studies completed since 1997, improving rural roads in the state won’t guarantee economic growth in largely agricultural areas, but it could help. Studies completed by the University of Georgia concluded that counties with new four-lane roads faired better economically and attracted more jobs than similar counties in the state that did not have the larger roads.

To find out about highway construction contracts open for bids in Georgia, click on the link to the right.