Gwinnett County faces challenges after Georgia postpones many planned transportation projects

Gwinnett County, Ga., commissioners are struggling to plan for future transportation projects after the state recently said more than 100 projects totaling $447 million have been postponed due to the failure of Congress to pass a long-term highway-funding plan.

One of the county’s postponed projects is the Georgia Gwinnett College Pedestrian Pathways project, at a cost of $1.2 million.

Gwinnett County, located in the Atlanta metropolitan area, is the second largest county in the state with a population of 900,000. The Gwinnett County commissioners are responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of 2,700 miles of roads.

Charlotte Nash, chairman of the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners, said the county faces challenges in planning future projects due to Congress’ numerous patches to the Highway Trust Fund.

“Obviously being so close to Atlanta we’re more urbanized,” Nash said. “We’re a growing population whereas other areas are not growing or losing population. Our business and economic activity puts pressure on our infrastructure system, and our interaction with Atlanta as well. Many of our residents work in our county and we have to pay attention to how people move across the Atlanta area.”

Nash added that one area where Gwinnett County is lacking is rapid transit. “We have a bus system but it’s not exactly what I’d call robust,” she said. “We’re at the point that we have to look at something more than just a bus system.”

Additionally, there is a planned Savanah Port expansion project under way that when finished will increase freight traffic in Gwinnett County.

“We’re in good shape for where we need to be right now, but we’ve got to keep pushing to address the additional freight movement from the port,” she said.

This construction season, the county is widening State Route 20, a major connector outside the interstate system that runs the entire north-south length of the county; improvements to the Jimmy Carter Blvd. Bridge; and a major rework of State Route 316, which will improve traffic flow and safety.

“We were hoping Congress would extend the Highway Trust Fund through the end of the federal fiscal year,” Nash said. “We’ve had to juggle our entire schedule for our next transportation plan. The lack of funding affects everyone across the region.”

Federal funding over multiple years would allow local governments the ability to better plan for infrastructure projects. “When you have funding for two months it makes it difficult to be able to move ahead with any projects,” Nash added.