The $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill signed into law by President Joe Biden last week could have significant impacts on local transportation projects throughout Cherokee County.
A spokesman with the Atlanta Regional Commission, which is set to oversee a major portion of the county’s allocation of federal dollars through the new law, said Cherokee and other metro Atlanta counties are expected to see a “huge increase” in funding for transportation projects.
Paul Donsky with the ARC said the organization expects to know its allocation of the $1.2 trillion soon. Though the exact number isn’t known yet, Donsky said the ARC expects a notable increase for transportation project funding for the organization’s 10 counties, including Cherokee.
“We’re hopeful that the increase is going to be significant,” Donsky said. “We’re looking at the ballpark of 25 percent, which is a historic jump in funding.”
The ARC backs and funds transportation projects in Cherokee through two avenues. Its Regional Transportation Plan includes long-range, “wish list” projects, Donsky said, while the organization’s Transportation Improvement Project is for upgrades or initiatives that have already received some funding. Each year, the ARC doles out its allocation of federal dollars for these plans.
With new federal funding, the ARC could approve some proposed projects more quickly, and projects that have already been approved may be completed earlier.
“What this will mean for Cherokee, I’m told, is some of the projects in the longer range, several years or even decades out that aren’t funded, could get moved into the Transportation Improvement Project, which means they are actually going to be done,” he said. “It’s also possible that some projects that are currently funded could get built out faster if money is available for things like right-of-way (acquisition) or engineering.”
The timing is significant for about a half-dozen projects the county is pushing to come to fruition with funding assistance from the ARC.
Earlier this month, the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners approved several formal letters of support for traffic improvements throughout the county to be financially supported by the ARC’s allocation of federal dollars. The projects include the Ball Ground bypass; intersection improvements along Highway 140 and at the intersection of 140, Riverstone Parkway and Marietta Highway; and upgrades to the Interstate 575 interchanges at Ridgewalk Parkway and Towne Lake Parkway.
The county petitioned the ARC to include these projects for various funding assistance, including for engineering, right of way acquisition and construction.
“There’s no guarantees, of course, but it’s everyone’s hope that those projects that are identified by local officials that have support of the community and meet significant needs, there’s going to be more money to accelerate the timelines for those projects,” Donsky said.
The federal infrastructure dollars will not totally foot the bill for transportation projects, though. Donsky said local funds will still need to be contributed. He said local governments are typically required to pay for about 20 percent of associated costs with the remaining 80 percent coming from federal coffers.
Even so, Donsky said the $1.2 trillion law adds a needed shot in the arm for local traffic projects.
“There is always more demand for transportation projects than there is a supply of money,” he said.
The county could potentially receive funding assistance directly from the federal government. Donsky said the new law allows for local governments to receive direct funding for specific programs like climate crisis mitigation, but he said the ARC is still learning more about that aspect of the law.
For more information on Cherokee County transportation projects that could be affected by the infrastructure bill, visit www.tribuneledgernews.com