VALDOSTA — Downtown is taking a giant leap in creating a truck bypass for downtown.
Potential routes for a bypass to get trucks out of Downtown Valdosta have been identified by Georgia Department of Transportation.
Paul Tanner, GDOT state transportation planning administrator, said an analysis has been completed for creating two potential routes with variations on each for a truck bypass in Valdosta from U.S. 84 and State Route 38 around downtown. Included in the bypass project is a railroad crossing overpass on St. Augustine Road south of U.S. 84.
The overpass is not contingent on the truck bypass project, but would be a piece of the overall bypass. The $19 million project would be funded by the transportation special purpose local option sales tax, better known as TSPLOST, and is proposed for construction for Fiscal Year 2028, according to a GDOT release.
The analysis of the truck bypass shows about four possible options with the cost of each ranging between $55 million and $103 million.
Tanner said the next step of the process is getting the public involved deciding to choose the route, which will go to the Valdosta-Lowndes Metropolitan Planning Organization, a federally designated transportation planning organization for the Valdosta urbanized area.
"This is a significant big step," Tanner said. "There's still a long process to go. We like to get the public input before continuing."
Tim Golden, state transportation board vice chair, said the goal of the analysis is to get trucks out of Downtown Valdosta. He said he has spoken with the many players involved in this project, including City of Valdosta and Lowndes County officials, who all had input on the potential routes.
Golden said he believes everyone is on the same page and ready to move forward.
"There's a lot of people involved in this, and they agree that downtown is dangerous – and loud," Golden said.
The U.S. 84/SR 38 corridor is a major east/west route through South Georgia and is a designated freight corridor, also known as Hill and Central avenues.
U.S. 84 carries an average 1,200 to 1,400 trucks per day in each direction, according to a GDOT press release.
An earlier VLMPO study cited noise, air quality and other concerns with trucks traveling in close proximity to passenger vehicles and pedestrians downtown, the release said.
GDOT is not allowed to restrict truck traffic from U.S. 84 due to it being a designated route. This means any project would have to relocate the existing state corridor to the bypass.
Doing this is a complex process and goes beyond GDOT's sole ability, according to the release.
Hill and Central Avenues would then need to be designated as a city road, giving the city the power to restrict truck traffic as it wishes.
GDOT officials declined to establish an official timeline for the project or establish how the project would be funded. TSPLOST could be used as a potential funding source, as well as state and local funding.
As of now, the project is in the developing stage and requires further study. GDOT will begin seeking a consensus on an official route between all the entities involved, which includes the public.
It's a big step for a project that has been more than 30 years in development, Golden said.
"This whole idea began on the back of an envelope," he said. "Laying the asphalt is really the easy part."
Thomas Lynn is a government and education reporter for The Valdosta Daily Times. He can be reached at (229)244-3400 ext. 1256