Stevens Creek widening project draws many to open house

The Stevens Creek Road area was abuzz Thursday with interest and questions about the proposed widening of a two-mile stretch from Mayo Road in Augusta to a new roundabout at Evans to Locks Road in Columbia County.

 

The busy two-lane road sees about 11,000 cars pass daily to access one of about a dozen subdivisions with entrances along the two-mile section, from Augusta’s West Hill to gated West Lake in Martinez, officials said.

More than 150 people signed in during the first hour of an open house at Stevens Creek Church sponsored by the Georgia Department of Transportation. Many had questions about losing trees, sections of their backyard or portions of their subdivision entrances to the road project.

The project was originally budgeted at about $28 million, when it was slated to stretch further into Augusta to Claussen Road, according to Columbia County Engineering Director Steve Exley. It has since been revised to an estimated cost of $12 million, using mostly federal dollars.

Homeowners such as Joseph Scherer, representing the Watervale subdivision, questioned how the widening will impact the entrance to their subdivision.

“I support the project; I’m mainly concerned about how it affects the neighborhood,” Scherer said.

The road will remain two lanes, but turn lanes and deceleration lanes will be added where needed along the route, along with a bicycle and pedestrian trail along the east side, Columbia County Traffic Engineering Director Steve Cassell said.

Project documents also showed a pedestrian bridge beside the bridge over Bowen Pond and the widening of Dennis Road from Stevens Creek to Merrico Street to improve access to Stevens Creek.

Exley said he expects each side of Stevens Creek to require an additional 10 feet of land, widening the road’s footprint from 80 feet to 100 feet.

“We have tried to have the smallest footprint possible,” Exley said, “balanced on both sides.”

West Lake homeowner Harry Mason said he was concerned to learn that if the subdivision guardhouse has to move back from the road, cars will be stopping in front of his driveway.

Mason said the project won’t ease what he considers the road’s main problem: traffic from drivers using it as a shortcut between River Watch Parkway and Evans to Locks Road.

Exley disagreed, saying the turn lanes will keep traffic from stopping as drivers wait to turn into their neighborhoods.

“We’ve got some subdivision entrances on this corridor that have a lot of rooftops. It’s going to help a lot,” Exley said.

Columbia County will administer the shorter portion of the road project that’s in Richmond County through an intergovernmental agreement, he said.

For one attendee, the road project was a part of his family history. Joe Rhodes said his grandfather and great-uncles purchased the entire area, about 2,035 acres, in 1917, when it was the Augusta Game Preserve. They paid $33,500, Rhodes said.

“I’m very excited; I’m not opposed to it,” Rhodes said about the project.

The project will continue to accept public comments until Jan. 2 online at www.dot.ga.gov or by mail, and plans can be viewed at Columbia County Engineering, 630 Ronald Reagan Drive.

Construction is expected to begin in June 2021 and take two years.

 

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