Scuttlebiz: Those road disruptions really are a good thing

The biggest local business story last week might have been the number of people who showed up late for work on Monday.


It seems a lot of dutiful commuters using River Watch Parkway were caught off guard by the guardrail work, which reduced the busy thoroughfare to one lane in each direction and slowed traffic to a crawl.

I’ve heard from plenty of disgruntled motorists upset over the extra time the Transportation Investment Act project has added to their morning and afternoon drive time. And although I can say the grousers shouldn’t have been surprised – read your Chronicle, folks! – I can certainly empathize with their road rage: I use the parkway to get to work, too.

Or, should I say, how I used to get to work. I’m taking alternate routes until the project is completed this summer.

The work will be temporarily halted during Masters Week, as well it should be, but the additional traffic load from the tournament won’t help the unfortunate souls working that week get to the office any more expediently.

At least the major artery linking Augusta’s core to all points west will be improved when the work is over: Georgia Department of Transportation workers and contractors will have installed new drainage structures and replaced the metal guardrail with a concrete median barrier and light poles.

Too bad they couldn’t add another lane while they’re at it. That would surely make the months of delay easier to swallow.

Look on the bright side: If you’re the typical metro area resident, your mean commute time, according to the latest census data, is 19.8 minutes – almost 10 minutes shorter than the typical Georgian (read: Atlantan).

Anyways, you might want to get used to seeing those orange traffic barrels. Based on what I heard Thursday at a transportation forum sponsored by state and local chambers of commerce, the road-building business is going to be booming in the coming years.

In addition to the nearly $800 million that the TIA will pump into road projects in the 13-county area in the next several years, there’s close to $1 billion being added to the annual state transportation budget starting this year thanks to the General Assembly’s 2015 approval of H.B. 170.

Of course, most of your state and federal fuel tax dollars will end up going to the contractors and consultants – the people who do a lot of the boots-on-the-asphalt work for the state.

“It’s going to be a really good time to be in engineering and construction and material supply,” Georgia Department of Transportation District Engineer Jimmy Smith told local community and business leaders at a state and local chamber of commerce-sponsored forum Thursday.

Just to give an example, he said the state will spend $40 million this year on ­restriping alone.

“That’s probably a good indication that somebody might want to buy a striping truck and hire a guy who knows how to drive it,” Smith said during the coffee-and-conversation forum.

Because the state isn’t adding additional personnel to take on the additional work, the opportunities for private-sector businesses should extend all the way down to the most basic forms of road maintenance on Georgia’s 1,200 miles of interstate and 120,000 miles of state roads.

“Beginning this spring, DOT will no longer cut grass – we’re getting out of the mowing business,” Smith said, adding that the work will be outsourced.

That’s good news for the private sector. Even better news is that the agency appears to be making a special effort to target area businesses.

“We are certainly looking for smaller firms,” Smith said. “We’re looking for local firms to come in and be part of the equation.”

And every dollar spent by the transportation department reportedly generates an additional $1.83 in economic activity.

Think about that at the gas pump during your next fill-up.

Augusta-area motorists can expect more road construction, DOT officials say