Home and business owners near the forthcoming extension of River Watch Parkway learned more Tuesday night about a monthlong detour that will affect commutes and business activity next year.
At a public meeting, Georgia Department of Transportation representatives answered questions about a proposal to close Columbia Industrial Boulevard for one month while crews build a new bridge traversing a railroad crossing on Old Evans Road, which is to be converted to the new River Watch Parkway.
The proposed detour would use Blue Ridge Drive, Evans to Locks Road and North Belair Road.
“Columbia Industrial is not a major cut-through so it’s not going to be a major detour,” said Matt Schlacter, Columbia County’s director of construction and maintenance.
Russell Turner, owner of Rusty’s Automotive, said the detour is a short-term problem for a long-term solution. Customers can still access his shop on Columbia Industrial Boulevard by using Evans to Locks Road.
“We can deal with it,” he said. “It’s going to be for the better.”
The Columbia Industrial Boulevard intersection will get one of two new traffic lights. The other will be installed at Towne Center Drive.
Construction will begin early next year on the $29 million project to extend River Watch Parkway three miles north from its current endpoint at Baston Road, said George Brewer, GDOT senior project manager. The new section of the road will follow Old Petersburg and Old Evans roads to intersect with Washington Road at Towne Center Drive.
About $20 million of the project is funded by the 1 percent sales tax for transportation projects, approved by voters last July. The remainder is state and federal funding, Brewer said.
The extension will be four lanes with a raised median, a bike lane and sidewalks. Widening the existing Old Petersburg and Old Evans road where many churches and homes are located required significant right-of-way acquisition, Brewer said.
“There are some front yards that are going to be much smaller than they used to be,” he said.
Judy Whittemore, who lives in a subdivision off Old Petersburg Road, said the road project is needed but she’s concerned that homeowners will have difficulty exiting driveways onto the new River Watch Parkway.