The Highway 278 Community Improvement District (Hwy 278 CID) and the City of Covington have been awarded a Surface Transportation Block Grant for Preliminary Engineering (PE) of Phase I of the Hwy 278 CID Master Plan from Turner Lake Road to Emory Street. The initial grant for PE in the amount of $464,800 was awarded through an Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) 2019 solicitation, and is funded by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT). The City of Covington will be the lead partner for the grant.
The projected cost of Phase I is $7,070,000, divided into four categories: preliminary engineering, right of way (ROW), utilities, and construction. The grant will fund the first step to complete Phase I.
“To strategically design the Hwy 278 CID Master Plan, we worked with the stakeholders, community representatives, City of Covington, Newton County, and GDOT,” said Kathy Morgan, Hwy 278 CID administrator. “This collaboration allows us the opportunity to ‘twin’ the project with the GDOT project for safety improvements in Phase I, which includes two roundabouts, medians, and a signalized r-cut at West Street. The shared resources offer significant cost reductions for both projects. We are fortunate to partner with them for improvements to Phase I.” The GDOT projected cost of its portion of Phase I is approximately $8,800,000.
The grant will be used for the Preliminary Engineering of Phase I for the work outside of the curb in the right of way to design the final plan for sidewalk or multi-use trail, utility relocation, right-of-way acquisition if needed, lighting, and landscaping. Part of the criteria for the grant included matching funds of $146,000. The Hwy 278 CID will provide 55% of the matching funds, and the remaining 45% will be funded by the City of Covington and Newton County equally. The property owners of the Hwy 278 CID self-imposed an additional millage rate of 5 mils to fund the improvements. A grant for right of way has been recommended for 2023, and additional grants for utilities and construction also have been considered within this timeline.
Engineering consultant Thomas & Hutton has been hired as program manager to administer this project for the Hwy 278 CID and the City of Covington, tasks to include writing the request for proposal (RFP) and compliance of the guidelines and specifications of the grant. The preliminary engineering is expected to be completed within one year, barring any adverse findings in regards to utility placement, environmental studies or other criteria. During this time, regular public meetings will ensure property owners and other stakeholders have ample opportunities to receive plan updates and discuss public impact. Phase I of the Hwy 278 CID Master Plan is planned for completion in 2026.
Morgan is ebullient about the long-awaited start of the Hwy 278 CID Master Plan. “Working together with our partners, GDOT, ARC, City of Covington, and Newton County, this project will finalize the engineering to begin Phase I. The next step is right of way acquisition, utilities and construction. This will create safe transportation alternatives such as cycling and pedestrian access, creating a welcoming entrance to Covington, connecting the Cricket Frog Trail to safe access to the park/ride lot as well as shopping, dining, and job opportunities along the Highway 278 corridor.”
“This grant award represents a major strategic funding step aimed at improving pedestrian and traffic safety along the U.S. 278 Highway Corridor,” added Covington Mayor Steve Horton. “The Covington City Council and I extend our appreciation to the Atlanta Regional Commission for awarding us this grant. We also want to thank Administrator Kathy Grant, the local, state and private partner staff, and all those who worked long and tirelessly to get us to this point in the overall project’s progress.”
Marcello Banes, chairman, Newton County Board of Commissioners, shared his excitement on the grant announcement. “It is great to see what we can accomplish working together – ONE NEWTON!”