Last week, the Chatham County Board of Commissioners threw its support behind the Coastal Georgia Greenway project, a 155-mile stretch that would include various trails that start in South Carolina, wind through coastal Georgia and end in Florida.
On Tuesday evening, the Liberty County Commission also agreed to be involved in the project, which is expected to help generate tourism through the CGG project.
Construction expenditures are expected to be around $100 million. The project also will support 1,400 jobs, generating $53.1 million in labor income, $158 million in business revenue and $3.7 million in tax revenue.
Rachel Hatcher, Liberty Consolidated Planning Commission transportation and land-use planner, said regional entities have been discussing the project since 1997.
“The newest addition is between all counties and cities within a six-county area in the Coastal Georgia Greenway that are being applied for on behalf of Chatham County for the CGG construction and the Transportation Investment Act of 2010,” said Hatcher, who also is a CGG board member. “TIA is a 10-year tax collection timeline and if approved by voters on the final list of projects, it will be programmed as funding is collected.”
The TIA, also known as House Bill 277, would levy a 1-percent sales tax within defined special tax districts to fund transportation projects. Projects will be discussed during regional transportation roundtables, which will be attended by every county commission chairperson and mayors from the involved counties. A roundtable executive, appointed by the roundtable, would determine which projects make it to the final approved list for voters.
If the project is passed, the Greenway trail is expected to be finished by 2020 and will run through Liberty, Chatham, Bryan, Darien, Brunswick and Camden counties. It also would link nine cities: Savannah, Richmond Hill, Midway, Riceboro, Darien, Brunswick, Woodbine, Kingsland and St. Marys.
Also by 2020, the Armstrong Atlantic State University Center for Regional Analysis expects the project will generate expenditures between $25 to $30 per day, per user, and will increase the adjacent property value by 5-10 percent.
To date, the resolution has been approved for Liberty and Chatham counties and the cities of Richmond Hill, Kingsland and St. Marys.
The project will allow residents access to an “alternative transportation route for distance cycling, a new destination activity and alternative transportation by linking existing trails; building new bicycle/pedestrian facilities along abandoned rail corridors, historic barge and drainage canals, ferries and highway rights-of-way; and linking to Amtrak, local bus stops and ferries while connecting South Carolina to Florida through coastal Georgia,” states a Georgia Department of Transportation Unconstrained Investment List Project Submittal Form.
“The project has been around a long time and has longstanding support,” said Jo Claire Hickson, executive director of Coastal Georgia Greenway Inc. “It is hoped that we will get 100 percent support, and if we do, the project may or may not make the final cut to be listed on the ballot for voter approval.”
Although it will take some time to develop such a project, nature and outdoor enthusiasts in Liberty and surrounding counties will have a safe trail for activities like walking, biking and hiking. Coordinators said the project also takes public safety into account as the trail should reduce the number of bicycle accidents. Many of the bicycle facilities along the roadways do not currently meet the safety standards required by the Department of Transportation.
Other organizations in support of the CGG include the East Coast Greenway Alliance, the Savannah Jaycees, The College of Coastal Georgia and the Jekyll Island Authority, according to a Coastal Georgia Greenway news release.
“It is very exciting to see a project that can positively impact the quality of life for our citizens and encourage tourism in Liberty County,” Hatcher said. “This project will bring new opportunities to Midway and Riceboro that supports their master plans and will encourage multi-modal travel throughout our county. With increases to adjacent property values, promotion of community activity and physical activity for our youth, and increased traffic from eco-tourism, this project will bring great things to our home.”