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Major Columbia County road projects will greet visitors next year

Wednesday, March 20, 2013 8:20 PM
Last updated 9:10 PM
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Masters Week guests this year won’t see much evidence of road construction in Columbia Countyr, but by next spring several major projects will be in full swing.

Columbia County workers prepare the ground for a new sidewalk near Baker Place Elementary. The project is one of several the county has planned for the year.  JIM BLAYLOCK/STAFF
Columbia County workers prepare the ground for a new sidewalk near Baker Place Elementary. The project is one of several the county has planned for the year.

The Georgia Department of Trans­portation and the Columbia County Construction and Maintenance Division are preparing to seek bids on projects including the extension of River Watch Parkway and William Few Parkway, the widening of Washington and Columbia roads, and intersection and sidewalk improvements around the county.

Construction on many of those projects will start later this year, and some – such as River Watch – could take two years to complete, said Matt Schlachter, the director of Construction and Maintenance.

“There’s going to be some major road construction next year in Columbia County,” he said.

The Columbia Road widening from Belair Road to Old Belair Road is expected to go to bid in June, according to Bruce Anderson Jr., the Georgia DOT manager for the project.

The project will extend the four-lane section and add a signal upgrade at Old Belair, Anderson said. The bridge over Crawford Creek will be widened.

The project is being built with state and federal funding, but on Tuesday the county commission approved spending $314,000 to relocate utilities along the road, said county Water Utility Director Billy Clayton.

Construction on the roundabout at Pumpkin Center is expected within three months, with bids going out to contractors soon, said DOT spokeswoman Cissy McNure.

After approval Tuesday by the commission, county crews soon will be able to start work on adding turn lanes and traffic signals on Lewiston Road at William Few Parkway, Schlachter said. They are now seeking engineering recommendations for the Chamblin Road/William Few intersection nearby, which will have either a traffic light or a roundabout.

That project will be built with discretionary funding from the new Transportation Investment Act, also known as the transportation special purpose local option sales tax. In addition to funding for major projects, each county in the district receives a share of the monthly revenue from the additional 1 percent sales tax. Columbia County got its first check, for $127,000, in January.

Some of that funding already is being used to build new sidewalks on Hero Way near Baker Place Elementary, and other sidewalks will be built on Blue Ridge Drive, Clark Point and The Pass near the Lakeside schools, and on Conn Drive near River Ridge Elementary.

“We’re focusing on the schools, trying to get the sidewalks to the schools, tying the neighborhoods to them,” Schlachter said.

The largest of the upcoming construction projects are the Washington Road widening, from Gibbs Road to William Few, and the extension of River Watch Parkway to Washington Road at Town Center Drive.

Both are state highways, though the county is overseeing the Washington Road project using local sales tax revenue, Schlachter said. The project is budgeted at $40 million with funding from the county’s local option sales tax.

“My goal is to have it under construction by the first quarter of next year,” he said.

The DOT’s River Watch Parkway extension likewise should be under construction by year’s end, Schlachter said, and will include a bridge over the railroad tracks on Old Evans Road.

Major projects funded through the transportation sales tax, including the widening of Robinson Avenue in Grovetown near Fort Gordon’s Gate 2, still are in the planning and engineering stages.

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Little Lamb
Little Lamb 03/21/13 - 07:49 am

It's interesting to read the terminology. The Riverwatch Parkway project is deemed to be an extension; but what people will see on the ground will be the widening of Old Petersburg Road. They will also see the widening of Old Evans Road and an entire re-working of the messy connection at Old Evans, Old Petersburg, and Blue Ridge Parkway. It will be a great improvement. There will be no actual extension of anything, yet it is termed an extension project vs. a widening project. Maybe some "extension" bureaucrat gets a bonus when he does an extension instead of a widening.

I had not heard about the bridge over the railroad tracks on Old Evans Rd. That's neat. What would really be neat would be for that bridge to become a fly-over to allow people to avoid the traffic lights on Washington Road and land on N. Belair Road somewhere around Hereford Farm Road.

Unfortunately, there appears to be no design in the mind of any traffic engineer to improve the traffic pattern at Washington Road/Bobby Jones Expressway/Old Evans Road intersection.

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