The project, which would widen Ga. 151 to four lanes in front of the 58-acre plot of land designated to be the Catoosa County Commerce Center, was pushed back to 2018 on the Georgia Department of Transportation priority list during July.
County officials want the center to house suppliers for the upcoming Volkswagen plant set to open in Chattanooga in 2011.
In October the Ga. 151 project was removed completely from GDOT’s list, but Mullis said the state expected to receive stimulus funds that could be used on the project.
Mullis represents Catoosa County as a senator and is chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee. He also oversees the Northwest Georgia Joint Development Authority, whose main task is to bring new industry to Catoosa, Walker, Dade and Chattooga counties.
Mullis said a major factor in acquiring stimulus funds is having a project be “shovel ready” under federal guidelines — something the project did not meet.
“When acquiring federal stimulus funds, the bar is much higher,” Mullis said.
He said he still expects state funding for the project and that only two road projects in north Georgia were approved for stimulus funds. The projects are at Post Road and Battlefield Parkway in Fort Oglethorpe and on McFarland Avenue in Rossville.
Mullis said he plans on working through “other means” to help push the project forward.
“The first approach may seem bleak,” Mullis said, “But I’m very confident we’ll see the 151 project on the state’s priority list.”
Catoosa County manager Mike Helton said he appreciates Mullis and the state’s efforts to get stimulus funds, but said the county wasn’t expecting stimulus funds when they had the project in mind.
He said the county will push for state funds and plans on the commerce center to still house Volkswagen suppliers.
“We will continue to look to the state for funding,” Helton said. “Our goals for the property are not changing.”
Helton said a “common thread” between the county and state is that both are “serious about economic development.”
He said installing a light at the intersection of Holcomb Road and Ga. 151 could serve to temporarily ease congestion in front of the commerce center until the road-widening project is underway.
The installation of the light would have to be approved by the state as well.