Berckmans Road and several smaller streets running through property owned by Augusta National Golf Club could be closed to traffic in a land swap that would give the city land needed to build a redesigned Berckmans.
A 1-mile stretch of existing Berckmans Road between the driveway entrance to Jay’s Music & Sound Super Center near the intersection of Washington Road and a point near Towne Club Condominiums would be closed — according to a site plan for right-of-way abandonment filed Tuesday with the city’s Planning Department.
A new segment of Berckmans Road would begin near Towne Club Condominiums at the edge of Augusta National and curve westward through the golf club’s property used as parking lots during the Masters Tournament. The new Berckmans Road will align with Alexander Drive at Washington Road.
Land for the new road segment owned by Augusta National would be exchanged for the city-owned existing Berckmans Road, according to Pat Rice, an attorney representing Augusta National. The land value will be assessed in coming months to determine if the swap is equal, and if not, money will be exchanged, he said.
The $16.7 million realignment and widening of Berckmans Road is funded by the 1-cent sales tax for transportation projects. Augusta National offered to loan the city money interest-free to begin the project sooner than planned. The city will repay the club as tax collections come in.
Rice said plans call for beginning the first phase of construction soon after the 2015 Masters.
A request for an interview with Augusta Traffic Engineer and Interim Deputy Administrator Steve Cassell was not returned Wednesday. Cassell said he needed to ask the city’s law department about the request.
Heath Drive, Cherry Lane, Hemlock Hill Road, McCarthy Drive, Hillside Lane and a portion of Stanley Drive would also close to traffic. The roads would remain in place for access to the club’s parking areas, Rice said.
“Now, Augusta National owns all property on both sides of the roads. They have no further use for traffic purposes,” he said.
The road plan maintains access to Jay’s music store from Washington Road, a privately-owned home fronting Stanley Drive and The Lodge on Heath, a hospitality house on Heath Drive.
However, the road plan has upset some area stakeholders since it was first proposed.
Vera Frohman, owner of Jay’s, said she feels powerless against the Augusta National and the city. Despite leaving access to the store’s parking lot from Washington Road, closing the existing section of Berckmans Road will negatively affect her business, she said.
“It brings a lot of traffic for our store. It brings customers to our store,” she said.
Grovetown resident Jacki Atkinson said Berckmans Road provides convenient and direct access from Walton Way to Washington Road. Atkinson, who traveled Berckmans on Wednesday from Surrey Center to The Fresh Market, said she would have to rework her driving routes under the new plan.
“It seems we’re spending a lot of local money that could benefit everyone instead of just the (Augusta) National,” she said. “That’s basically once a year. What about the local people that deal with it everyday?”
Rice said city planners proposed the road realignment years ago to alleviate traffic issues at Berckmans and Washington roads and facilitate traffic flow between Riverwatch Parkway and Walton Way.
The plan still needs vetting from various city departments and the Engineering Services committee before going before the Augusta Commission.