One agency that can’t work from home is the Georgia Department of Transportation. Through the COVID-19 pandemic, GDOT crews have been hard at work across the state to improve roadways and airports.
As air travel and commuting start to pick up again, improvements are being made to ensure those trips go smoothly.
Local governments are also utilizing funds from the agency to enhance their own infrastructure, whether it’s adding sidewalks for safe pedestrian travel or walk and bike trails for recreation and alternative transportation. Here are just some of the projects GDOT and local governments have in the works.
Upgrades At The Vidalia Regional Airport
A rehab project on the Vidalia Regional Airport’s apron is currently underway, funded by a state and local grant from GDOT. It’s expected to be complete—ahead of schedule—in June, according to Vidalia City Manager Nick Overstreet.
The project will expand the pavement around the airport’s taxiway in front of existing hangars. Once complete, the airport will be able to better accommodate the types of aircraft that regularly use it.
Vidalia Regional—or, in aviation terms, VDI—is not an airport where you can hop on a Delta flight. Most of its traffic comes from private air travel, recreational pilots and flight training. But that doesn’t mean it’s not busy. According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the airport averages 52 take-offs and landings each day—nearly 19,000 flights per year.
More Ways To Take A Walk (Or Ride)
GDOT is currently accepting applications for its Transportation Alternatives Program. In partnership with the Federal Highway Administration, GDOT funds projects that will add new pedestrian and bike trails, or improve walkability in downtowns, historic districts and routes where children walk to school. The deadline for 2022 applications is July 31, but the 2021 projects are already getting started.
Macon-Bibb County received $500,000 through TAP to create the final link in a massive Middle Georgia trail system. The Connector Trail will be a two-mile stretch of pedestrian and bike trail along the Ocmulgee River in downtown Macon. It will connect the 13mile Ocmulgee Heritage Trail, which runs through Macon-Bibb County starting at Amerson River Park and ending near Central City Park and Ocmulgee Mounds National Monument.
In Cartersville, more than a mile of sidewalk will be installed between a busy retail district and residential area. The city received $1.9 million through TAP to add new, safe walking routes near many homes. The sidewalk route begins on a busy stretch of Ga. 20 (Joe Frank Harris Parkway), near apartments, restaurants and businesses. The path will go along Grassdale Road, an artery connecting many residential neighborhoods and subdivisions.
Traffic Hub Undergoing Transformation
A long-term project tackling a regular traffic nightmare for metro Atlanta commuters is close to completion. Transform 285/400 started in 2017, an ambitious undertaking to improve 4.3 miles of Interstate 285 and 6.2 miles along Ga. 400, centering around where the two highways meet.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic relegated many office workers to remote work, the top of the Perimeter was a choke point for drivers leaving large office buildings in Dunwoody and Sandy Springs. Transform 285/400 aims to alleviate some of that daily traffic frustration.
The project includes new distributor lanes along I-285 and Ga. 400, a new diverging diamond interchange and new paths and sidewalks to accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists. Once complete—GDOT projects early 2022 as the finish line—the agency expects to reduce delays by over 12,500 hours daily (spread across the thousands of drivers). The average commuter is expected to save eight hours of traffic time annually. Not only will commuters have an easier ride, but residents in surrounding cities—Sandy Springs, Dunwoody and Brookhaven—will have less congestion to deal with and more opportunities for walking and biking.
This story originally appeared in the May/June 2021 edition of Georgia’s Cities magazine.