Roadwork was delayed
by shortfall
Cables meant for wreck scene never installed

BUFORD - For months, Mike Evans has talked about the need for more transportation money to fight traffic.

But Wednesday, the State Transportation Board chairman used a more heart-wrenching example of the need for money: to save lives.

Earlier this month, four children died in a crash along Interstate 85 in Jackson County when one vehicle crossed the interstate median and collided with another.

On that stretch of interstate, the Department of Transportation already had plans to install cable barriers to stop cars from crossing the median. But the plans were delayed when the money didn't come in.

"There's no way you could attribute (the wreck) to the project not being built," Evans said at a board meeting at Lake Lanier Islands. "What we will know is there are four kids who won't live a full life because they were killed on Georgia roads."

Evans, who launched a Web site last year to illustrate a $7.7 billion shortfall predicted in road money over the next 10 years, added a link recently to list $444.7 million in projects that were ready for construction in Fiscal Year 2007, which ended June 30, but the funds weren't available.

The projects that were axed included the cable barriers, which were planned from Interstate 85 from Ga. Highway 20 north to the Banks/Franklin county line and Interstate 985 from Interstate 85 to exit 24. The projects, which combined for 64 miles, were expected to cost about $12 million.

In addition, projects to widen I-85 - including portions in Barrow and Jackson counties - were pushed to a list of long-term plans.

Evans said the problems wasn't as simple as pushing a project into the next year's plan.

"When you roll it into (FY) '08, something gets pushed into '09," he said. "It's like a tidal wave. It just continues to grow."

While legislators have discussed several funding solutions, including a statewide sales tax devoted to transportation, Evans did not address a funding source Wednesday, although he did mention an efficiency study the DOT currently has under way.

"It's not all about money," he said. "It's about us being the best we can. I want to make sure we can get every mile we can out of every dollar we spend."

In addition to the cable barriers, Gwinnett County projects pushed back to FY '08, according to the Web site, include:

n a $125,000 pilot safety project to put LED lights in the pavement at the Ga. 20 ramp at I-85, which would warn drivers of a sharp curve.

n $2.4 million to resurface a portion of Beaver Ruin Road.

n $1.5 million to resurface a portion of Peachtree Parkway.

n $2.5 million to resurface two stretches of Buford Highway.

"The state routes are generally well-maintained, and delaying a resurfacing by a year may not have a big impact to those roads," Gwinnett Transportation Deputy Director Alan Chapman said. "With the cost increases, they do have a limited budget and it's difficult for them to balance projects in a given year."