Monday, June 23, 2008

Kuhlke Appointment Good News for Watkinsville, Northeast Georgia

Often times we tend to focus on the negative in politics. A bit of good news quietly came our way last week as Bill Kuhlke of Augusta was named chairman of the board for the Georgia Department of Transportation.

What, do you ask, does an appointment of an Augustan have to do with Watkinsville? Here's what. GDOT board slots are appointed by Congressional District. We share a congressional district with Augusta (which currently features Paul Broun and Barry Fleming going mano-a-mano), meaning Mr. Kuhlke is actually our representative on the GDOT board.

One of the biggest weaknesses of our region -- and the state -- for a long time has been a lack of transportation funding and effective planning. In recent months, we have had visits from Commissioner Abraham, and now we have a reasonably local chairman in place just as the Governor gets on board with commuter rail and GDOT begins putting together its state transportation plan, led by Ms. Abraham. Over at the Athens Inbox, I theorized that we might finally be in the right place at the right time.

Despite being from Augusta, Mr. Kuhlke has proven to be a strong advocate for Watkinsville and Athens. He has helped us secure significant federal dollars for streetscape II and is showing a strong interest in the currently stalled 441 widening project in South Oconee.

What does this mean? It's probably too early to tell. But rest assured, all politics is local, and the needs of this region -- from the Brain Train to the Bishop by-pass to the 441-15 connector south of Watkinsville to Jennings Mill Parkway to a 316 upgrade -- are a lot more likely to be met when you have local leaders in positions to make things happen. Check out this entry for my transportation wish list and lets hope some of them start to become a reality -- sooner rather than later!

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