The Georgia Department of Transportation announced Wednesday that the long-awaited Fall Line Freeway project is moving closer to completion.
The $58.3 million contract for construction of the route's final nine-mile section between state Route 24 and U.S. Highway 441 south of Milledgeville in Baldwin and Wilkinson counties was awarded.
This is included in the Governor's Road Improvement Program (GRIP) corridor of the total 215 miles that make up the freeway.
Milledgeville-Baldwin County Development Authority Executive Director Matt Poyner said the project offers the county connectivity.
The project will include a new, four-lane roadway with a total of eight bridges spanning the Oconee River and two area creeks. Work is scheduled for completion at the end of 2015.
The Fall Line undertaking consists of new roadway sections like those to be built in this final project, as well as the widening and improvement of existing highways — resulting in a four-lane freeway stretching from Columbus to Macon to Augusta.
Drawing suppliers for big business to the county is a real possibility as the roads improve, according to Jones.
Mayor Richard Bentley thought the Fall Line Freeway might head to the back burner after the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (T-SPLOST) referendum failed last July. He said the recent news proves the state's belief in the project as an avenue to increase state commerce.
Visions of an inland port between Milledgeville and Dublin aren't far fetched, according to the mayor.
Poyner mentioned plans for an industrial park at the intersection of Highway 441 and the Fall Line.
The timeline to buy land for the park lasts until the next state legislative session ending in 2014. Poyner said officials are still negotiating the cost.
The Fall Line Freeway corridor has received total GDOT investment of more than $500 million since the GRIP program began in 1989.
Created by the Georgia General Assembly, GRIP provides for the construction of a system of economic development highways that, when complete, will connect 95 percent of Georgia cities with populations of 2,500 or more to the Interstate Highway System.
It also will place 98 percent of Georgia's population within 20 miles of a four-lane road. GRIP includes 19 economic development highway corridors and three truck access routes for a total of 3,273 miles of roadway.