Improvements to the Augusta area's transportation network can't come quick enough to support the projected growth of Fort Gordon, transportation officials and city leaders say.
To support a population boom spurred by the Army Cyber Command headquarters' move to Augusta and growth of other missions at Fort Gordon, state leaders need to prioritize road projects near the post and "put some (other) things on the back burner," said District 12 transportation board representative Don Grantham.
New projects will have to be fast-tracked, which means depending on more state and local planning -- and possibly dollars -- rather than federal help, Grantham said. Typically, the Georgia Department of Transportation takes seven years to complete a project, from right of way acquisition and environmental studies to design and construction.
"Instead of a seven-year program, we're going to have to target a three- to four-year program," Grantham said.
Grantham, department engineers and leaders from Richmond and Columbia counties have been meeting to discuss transportation infrastructure since the Cyber Command's announcement. Thousands of military personnel, government civilians and contractors are expected to move to the area through 2019.
"I feel sure we'll be able to meet that growth," said Augusta Commission member Mary Davis, who has been involved in planning discussions. "We definitely have to be proactive, and that's what they're doing."
Nearly $60 million in road improvements in the congested Grovetown area that feeds into Fort Gordon isn't enough to support the projected growth of the post, leaders say.
Three projects funded by the special 1 percent transportation tax are planned for the next nine years in Grovetown. Widening Horizon South Parkway and Lewiston Road and redesigning Robinson Avenue -- all major routes for Fort Gordon commuters -- will help traffic patterns but won't be the only solutions, Grantham said.
"TSPLOST is going to be huge," Davis said. "If we didn't have it, we'd be in a worse place than we are."
Creating a more direct route from Washington Road to Fort Gordon and a new interchange on Interstate 20 are proposals leaders are studying, said Thom Tuckey, the executive director of the CSRA Alliance for Fort Gordon. Also under consideration is a new entrance to Fort Gordon between Grovetown and Harlem that would likely replace the Robinson Avenue gate, where traffic back-ups are common, he said.
"With all the growth coming in, logical development and expansion areas are west Evans and to a lesser extent into south Augusta," Tuckey said. "Grovetown can't handle any more."
Though the transportation network needs work, the area's traffic will be a relief to many new arrivals, Tuckey said.
"Whatever is down here is going to be better than what they face in D.C.," he said. "They are out of space to widen roads. We have an opportunity to alleviate that problem."