Augusta Traffic Engineer Steve Cassell said the $20.3 million project is intended to improve connectivity from River Watch Parkway to west Augusta. Major changes to the path of Berckmans Road are proposed for the northern section that currently borders the Augusta National Golf Club.
From Ingleside Drive to Washington Road, Berckmans Road could be widened to four traffic lanes with a center left turn lane or median from Ingleside Drive to Washington roads. The road must be redirected to align with Alexander Drive about 0.3 mile west of its current intersection with Washington Road.
“The big question is at what point do we start bending it over to take it to Alexander,” Cassell said.
Cassell said the project is in “very early” planning stages and no detailed design work or grading plans have been made. Construction funding for the project awaits voter approval on a referendum to collect a new 1 percent regional sales tax for transportation.
If the measure passes July 31, Richmond County is projected to collect $277.5 million over 10 years. Under the transportation law, the project must be completed by 2022. Although currently scheduled to begin in 2020, Cassell said an earlier start date is possible.
From Wheeler Road to Ingleside Drive, the thoroughfare’s path will remain much as it is currently, with the possible addition of a circular intersection, or roundabout, at the Ingleside intersection.
One business that could be affected by a realignment is Jay’s Music and Sound Super Center at the intersection of Washington Road. Owner Vera Frohman fears the music store’s profits will be slashed by changes in traffic patterns.
“I’m very concerned. It’s an access road to my business, and they’re about to cut me off,” Frohman said. “There is nothing good about this at all.”
Since 1994, customers have entered the store through a driveway on Berckmans Road. A change to the road would also affect visibility by passing drivers at what is now a busy intersection with a traffic light, she said.
If the realignment proposal moves forward, the new path will have to traverse land owned by the Augusta National, Cassell said. Some of the concepts use existing roadways on Heath and Stanley drives through that land.
“That’s a given. It’s just how we go through that,” Cassell said about directing Berckmans Road through the large, grassy field used as parking lots one week a year during the annual Masters tournament.
Cassell said any plan adopted will address access to homes and businesses. None of the proposals attempt to cut a new road through the neighborhood that sits off Berckmans Road above Rae’s Creek.
Jerry Thacker lives in one of three houses remaining across the road from the Augusta National on the 400 block of Berckmans Road. Thacker is curious what compensation will be offered for land acquired to widen the road, but he’s reserving judgment about the realignment proposal until he sees the concepts at Tuesday’s meeting.
After the input is received at that meeting, Cassell said, the five proposals will likely be narrowed down. Construction costs, bridging streams and pedestrian crossings during the Masters will be considered.