County optimistic financing engineering will draw state, federal funding

Local investments look to kickstart Cass-White Road improvements

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With so many transportation projects in the works in Bartow County, it's easy for — relatively — smaller projects like the Cass-White Road improvement plan to get lost in the shuffle.

But as Bartow County Transportation Planner Tom Sills illustrates, it's one residents should be keeping an eye on; after all, they are the ones financing it.

"We are in hopes of being able to attract some state investment at some point, but we wanted to give the state a show of good faith that we're earnest in trying to get the projects done," he said. "So we're using our own resources to get the preliminary engineering started."

To date, the county has spent $1.45 million on the project, which is currently planned for four phases. Phase I would relocate the intersection of U.S. 411, construct a new railroad overpass and expand the lanes from U.S. 411 to Colonel Way from two to four.

Sills said he expects a Phase I construction contract to be awarded in July. The construction itself, he said, should take about 24 months.

According to the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT), the estimated construction cost of the project is $6.2 million, with preliminary engineering tabbed at $700,000.

Phase II would widen Cass-White Road from two lanes to four — complete with a divided median — from Busch Drive to Great Valley Parkway, near the entrance of Highland 75 Industrial Park and the Beauflor USA manufacturing facility.

According to  Cartersville-Bartow Metropolitan Planning Organization (CBMPO) data, construction is tabbed at $10.8 million — with $8.6 million of the expenses expected to be covered by federal dollars and the state picking up the remainder of the bill.

The county, however, would still be on the hook for preliminary engineering, right-of-way acquisition and utilities costs. The CBMPO anticipates that totaling about $3.76 million.

Sills said he believes the county will have a Phase II concept ready for Department of Transportation (DOT) review this summer. 

"We're actively working with the engineers to try to get a concept put together on that," Sills said. "The traffic study is due to be submitted to DOT this week, and shortly thereafter we'll start the environmental reviews and design of the actual alignment."

The traffic study will address any conflicts with another major transportation project in the area — the $89 million Rome-Cartersville Development Corridor.

"We're in direct consultation with engineers on that project to minimize those issues," Sills said. 

All phases of the Cass-White Road improvement project, Sills said, would improve safety and better facilitate truck traffic getting on and off Interstate 75.

Phase III, which entails the widening of Cass-White Road from two lanes to four from I-75 to Brown Loop Road, is tabbed at $12.2 million, with local dollars currently expected to cover about $6.7 million of the engineering and construction costs. Phase IV, which would expand Cass-White Road from two lanes to four from Great Valley Parkway eastward to Colonel Way, carries a projected $13.2 million price tag, with local contributions anticipated to cover $7.2 million of the preliminary engineering and construction costs.

"We anticipate taking the same approach with the third and fourth phases as we have with the second — develop a set of plans with definite cost estimates and present this to GDOT and other agencies seeking a cost share arrangement," Sills said. "The approach is to leverage local efforts into obtaining matching funds from a variety of sources — GDOT, the  Federal Highway Administration, the Appalachian Regional Commission, the United States Economic Development Administration, etc."

Sills said he's optimistic the local investment will yield great returns for the community. Not only does he anticipate the transportation improvement plan spurring more economic activity in the northeast quadrant, but throughout the entire county. 

"The projects are expected to serve the long-term economic development needs of Bartow County by providing better access to I-75 and U.S. 411 for the large developable tracts along the Cass-White Road corridor," he said. "The area is seen as a long-term economic driver for the local and regional economy and we are seeking to improve the function of the existing facilities to accommodate that goal."