Seek­ing a slower pace

New Cov­ing­ton trans­porta­tion di­rec­tor leaves be­hind At­lanta bus­tle

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - GABRIEL KHOULI gkhouli@cov­

Cov­ing­ton’s new­est trans­porta­tion di­rec­tor has built in­ter­states and worked on the busiest stretches of high­way in At­lanta, and he’s look­ing for­ward to a chance of pace.

Ken Swain, a 30-year vet­eran of the Ge­or­gia Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion (GDOT) who re­tired ear­lier this year, took over as Cov­ing­ton’s trans­porta­tion di­rec­tor May 19; so far, he’s spent most of his time re-learn­ing the city and mem­o­riz­ing co-work­ers’ names.

Swain and his wife, Vicki, lived in Cov­ing­ton’s Pinecrest neigh­bor­hood from 1989 to 1994 and loved the city, but moved to Lo­ganville to find a big­ger house and a more child-filled neigh­bor­hood for their son. His wife, who grew up in the area, still has fam­ily around.

“I love the old town, small town, even though pop­u­la­tion wise, I guess you might not con­sider it small any­more. It still has that feel,” Swain said Fri­day, end­ing his sec­ond full week on the new job. “I guess, get­ting old, grow­ing up in the 60s, watch­ing The Andy Grif­fith Show, it comes around full bore some­times. You get tired of stand­ing on I-85, jump­ing out of the way for traf­fic. (I thought) maybe Cov­ing­ton has some­thing to of­fer.”

Swain re­tired as a con­struc­tion project en­gi­neer in GDOT’s Metro At­lanta district, which Swain de­scribed as mas­sive and crazy. He worked on the ad­di­tion of HOV lanes to I-85, and back in the late 80s, he over­saw the build­ing of I-675.

“That’s the big­gest job I ever worked on. We led it. A 10-mile long project, right across pas­ture. It had 27 bridges; it was a mas­sive project. We don’t let them like that any­more. New con­struc­tion is go­ing the way of the dodo bird,” Swain said.

First of all, there’s not much room left in At­lanta to build a ma­jor, brand new in­ter­state. Sec­ond of all, a project that big would be bro­ken up into mul­ti­ple smaller projects to­day and han­dled by sev­eral dif­fer­ent com­pa­nies.

Swain was also around when At­lanta was pre­par­ing for the Olympics and worked on turn­ing State Route 138 in Cony­ers from a small, two-lane high­way to a full, di­vided-lane high­way ca­pa­ble of han­dling the mas­sive traf­fic ex­pected at the Ge­or­gia In­ter­na­tional Horse Park.

De­spite all that, Swain said it’s ac­tu­ally a lit­tle in­tim­i­dat­ing to be in a small town.

“It’s a lit­tle in­tim­i­dat­ing to be in this po­si­tion to rep­re­sent people that you know ver­sus face­less people of the DOT and state; people just driv­ing through. It’s kind of in­trigu­ing; I like chal­lenges, and it’s a dif­fer­ent chal­lenge,” he said.

“The first time I was at the coun­cil meet­ing, one of the coun­cil ladies came up to me. I used to never have to deal with (that sit­u­a­tion). I’m glad to now.”

Swain is ex­cited about work­ing with co-work­ers and res­i­dents who are “just fine folks. How would you not take the job?”

Com­ing from GDOT, Swain said he wasn’t sure how a smaller town like Cov­ing­ton would com­pare. He was pleas­antly sur­prised.

“Some­times you get the mind­think that they may not be up to spend, but in some ways they’re more up to speed in some ar­eas,” Swain said. “Then you re­al­ize, you don’t have quite the bu­reau­cracy to get things done. If you have good ideas and ap­proach the people who are there to lis­ten to you and are in a po­si­tion to get things done, then it’s sim­ple and you can get it done.”

Swain said he’s look­ing for­ward to work­ing on more lo­cal­ized projects and work­ing di­rectly with those in the com­mu­nity.

Un­for­tu­nately, for those hop­ing the state has some­thing up its sleeve to im­prove the monster traf­fic jams that per­me­ate com­muter trips into At­lanta, Swain said he doesn’t know of any magic fixes.

“Some­times you just re­al­ize it doesn’t mat­ter how many lanes you put in, be­cause if you make more lanes, more people are go­ing to use it. We’re go­ing to de­signs of HOV and pay-per-lanes, and I guess those might work,” said Swain, who many times made the kind of com­mute that causes you to ques­tion your cur­rent life choices.

“You at like it like, Ge­or­gia was graced with the cli­mate and po­ten­tial that we have here, and that’s why all these people are com­ing. You can’t blame the people; you just wish some of them wouldn’t come in as much as they do.”

Work­ing in Cov­ing- ton, Swain is mak­ing sure there’s one less com­muter clog­ging up the in­ter­state.

To reach Swain, email him at kswain@city­of­cov­ing­ or call him at his of­fice at 770385- 2189.


Gabriel Khouli/The Cov­ing­ton News

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