City traffic engineers have chosen the preferred route for connecting Berckmans Road with Alexander Drive, and it goes through the heart of Augusta National Golf Club’s parking lots.
Augusta Traffic Engineer Steve Cassell said the most feasible route makes a diagonal line from Heath Drive toward Stanley Drive to intersect with Alexander Drive. And the project could happen sooner than its current 2020 start date, he said.
The remaining design concept, although not finalized, is similar to four of five proposed routes that were presented to the public at a June meeting. A second public meeting will be held Monday at Julian Smith Casino with project engineers on hand to answer questions.
Four of the proposed routes made slightly different diagonal cuts and used some existing roads, while the fifth route made a sweeping curve to the west, largely bypassing property owned by entities connected to Augusta National.
In June, some homeowners along Stanley Drive said they preferred the sweeping curve because it interfered the least with their properties.
Cassell said the sweeping curve was not feasible because of higher construction costs.
One major change to the remaining design involves having two traffic lanes with a center turn lane, instead of four traffic lanes. Cassell said public comment widely opposed five lanes.
Stanley Drive homeowner Elizabeth Thacker said she wanted the curved route because it would avoid more of her property but was pleased to learn the road will be three lanes, not five.
“It won’t take up as much of our property,” she said. “We’re trying to save our trees.”
Cassell said realigning Berckmans Road with Alexander Drive less than a half-mile west of its current intersection with Washington Road will help improve traffic flow to west Augusta. He also said the road, which could include pedestrian underpasses, is being done with the Masters Tournament in mind.
“We’re looking for something that works year-round and benefits everyone,” Cassell said. Augusta National is “definitely the largest property owner there, so whatever we do, we’re going to have to negotiate with them.”
According to a statement from Augusta National, the golf club is waiting for more details on the proposed plan to determine the overall effect on its property and the city.
The club supports the city’s need for improved traffic flow near the property’s border year-round and during the Masters Tournament, the statement said.
The project received funding by voter approval of the 1 percent regional sales tax for transportation projects on July 31. The tax allocates $16.7 million for widening Berckmans Road and another $3.7 million to replace a bridge on the road over Rae’s Creek.
After about 18 more months of design work, engineers could start right-of-way and land acquisition, Cassell said.