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Homeowners concerned about Berckmans Road redesign affecting front yards

BERCKMANS PLAN GETS CLOSER LOOK

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Jerry and Sally Thacker purchased their home at the corner of Berckmans Road and Heath Drive in 1991, planning to stay in the same spot for their lifetime. Now they’re talking with lawyers about what can be done to save their front yard.

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Allison Brown (from left), Elizabeth Thacker and Dennis Ellis look at the changes. Some are worried about the plan, but others say they are unaffected.  SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
Allison Brown (from left), Elizabeth Thacker and Dennis Ellis look at the changes. Some are worried about the plan, but others say they are unaffected.

The newly redesigned Berckmans Road runs through the Thackers’ rose garden, past the home’s tennis court and over the property’s water well.

“We’re just totally ruined,” Sally Thacker said. “Who wants traffic coming that close to your front door?”

About 100 people attended a public meeting Monday night about the road redesign. The northern section of Berckmans Road – which currently borders Augusta National Golf Club – will be redirected to align with Alexander Drive less than a half-mile from its current output on Washington Road at National Hills shopping center.

From the Thackers’ front yard, the road turns west, cutting through Augusta National’s parking lots. The design concept was narrowed down from five proposals presented at a June meeting.

Some at Monday’s meeting were pleased that the latest proposal – which city traffic engineer Steve Cassell said is the preferred alignment – involves two traffic lanes with a center turn lane instead of four lanes.

Stanley Drive homeowner Herman Thacker, Jerry’s brother, said that previous proposals took out too much of his front yard but that he’s mostly unaffected by the latest design. Still, he doesn’t think taxpayer money needs to be spent on the project.

“I don’t see why they can’t widen Berckmans Road where it is,” he said.

Cassell said further design work will look more closely at homeowners’ concerns, such as wells and septic tanks.

“A lot of their issues can be addressed when we negotiate the right of ways,” he said.

A use for the current section of Berckmans Road has not been determined, Cassell said. Power and water lines will not be relocated.

A traffic signal at Berckmans and Washington roads will be moved to River Ridge Drive, the main entrance to a neighborhood. Cassell said homeowners have long requested a signal. A back entrance to National Hills shopping center connects to River Ridge Drive.

The design also provides a short access road from Washington Road to the parking lots of Jays Music and Sound Super Center.

The project received funding by the July 31 voter approval of the 1 percent regional sales tax for transportation projects. The tax allocates $16.7 million for widening Berckmans Road and $3.7 million more to replace a bridge on the road over Rae’s Creek.

Cassell said the project could begin sooner than its current 2020 start date.

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rebellious
18708
Points
rebellious 09/17/12 - 11:37 pm
5
3

Riots

I will personally organize protests and civic disturbances if this greatly publicized effort happens before the Windsor Spring Road widening from Tobacco Road to Highway 88. One has been on the books since 1988, Berkman Road is just now being discussed. Read this article from the AC from June of this year:

"In 1988, city planners warned Jenkins Memorial CME Church to build far back from the edge of Windsor Spring Road. The road would be widened soon, they said. Twenty-four years later, the pastor and churchgoers still haven’t seen that happen.

Now, state and local officials say, federal and state funding is secured and the widening project is closer to reality. Voter approval on July 31 of a special 1 percent transportation tax referendum could guarantee that the project isn’t delayed any longer.

“We want the road widened,” said the Rev. Timothy Green, pastor of the church at 4218 Windsor Spring Road. “We’re trying to push forward because it’s too much congestion. People can’t get around.”

Funds were allocated to begin the project’s design in Augusta’s second special purpose local option sales tax in 1991 and additional money was added in phases three and four of the tax.

While the project waited on full funding, the cost for widening the road increased.

According to The Augusta Chronicle archives, the project’s cost was estimated at $20 million in 2005. Now, $43 million is budgeted for two phases of road widening and two bridge replacements.

According to the Georgia Department of Transporta­tion, the project has been expedited because of
vehicle congestion and numerous crashes. Two lanes will be widened to four from Tobacco Road to Georgia Highway 88.

Krystal Stovall-Dixon, the GDOT project manager, said cost estimates could have increased because material costs were inflated or values of property needed for acquisition changed.

Augusta Commissioner Joe Jackson said past city transportation engineers underbudgeted the large construction project, so the widening wasn’t started.

“The money that was earmarked for Windsor Spring Road got moved somewhere else,” Jackson said.

According to Engineering Director Abie Ladson, the construction portion was never funded. Earlier allotments from the tax were spent on design and planning.

Deputy Finance Director Tim Schroer said tax collections for Windsor Spring Road were mostly spent. Unused money is funneled into a special account where it can be used for another project approved by the city commission.

Like Jackson, some residents perceive that tax money for the project was misused.

Residents have long voiced concerns about traffic problems, especially near Diamond Lakes Regional Park, but the road was never improved.

Sammie Sias, a long-time Hephzibah-area activist, said traffic after an event at Diamonds Lake can be “total mayhem” and the project is “way overdue.”

“The money needs to stop vanishing. The money needs to stay where it’s supposed to be,” Sias said.

Jackson, who served on the regional roundtable that compiled the list of projects, said $6 million for the widening was included in the referendum list, a tactic that guarantees the project’s completion if the vote passes. Under the Transportation Investment Act, all projects on the approved list must be completed.

“All these projects have to be delivered,” Jackson said.

Jason O’Rouke, political director for Connect Georgia, a Georgia Chamber of Commerce entity created to promote the tax referendum, said most regions considering the tax referendum included projects that were already funded.

If the tax passes, the $6 million earmarked for Windsor Spring must be used in place of an equal amount of federal funding that’s been secured for the project.

“That (federal) money will be freed up for other transportation projects, but it has to stay in the region,” he said.

According to GDOT, $33.7 million was funded federally and $5.8 million comes from state money with additional contributions from other sources."

Commissioner Guilfoyle, 24 years? You don't need a phone call from me to know this must happen and we are tired of the dollars being diverted to Sebastion Way or other projects. I hope you don't lose too much frontage of your house, but we are watching and the election is just 2 years away. Oh, and Commissioner Mason, where the hell are you? Let's get this in process and open up access to South Augusta. How about you two represent the district constituents who voted you in office. What about it? You in?

WE are tired of playing second fiddle and paying for front row seats.

dickworth1
727
Points
dickworth1 09/17/12 - 11:49 pm
7
1

berckman road

It is time for all richmond county taxpayers to stand up against this
move. For the national to imply that they are not involved in the
decision of berckman rd is unbelieveable. The national is cutting all
ties apparently with the citizens of augusta. The location of the propose
route is to eventually make the owners sell and frankly I believe the
national will end up with all the land they choose to purchase. The national is not the club it was when clifford roberts was in charge and
I think he is turning over in his grave watching this mess unfold. I side with the homeowners on this issue!

rebellious
18708
Points
rebellious 09/18/12 - 12:21 am
7
2

Dickiedo

i don't personally have a problem with this Berkman Road move. I know the displaced property owners have been made rich beyond their wildest imaginations. My issue is with this project potentially being moved to the head of the list over projects that have been on the books for 24 years. Overlooked because the beneficiaries are just plain ole hard working, silent majority, regular blue collar folks. They don't have memberships at the Augusta Country Club. or the Augusta National, or the Pinnacle Club. They plug at a job for 8 hours a day, have put kids through college, paid for their homes, deal with crime all around their omes.. Watched their 401 K and Investments dwindle due to this recession. But the only voice they have is a vote, once every 4 years.

Folks out in the suburbs are honest, law abiding people. As I talk to them, they are sick of seeing projects targeting downtown while they feel neglected. The winds, they are a changin. Just hope the "leaders" of our government see it.

countyman
16820
Points
countyman 09/18/12 - 01:13 am
3
3

The $30 million Saint

The $30 million Saint Sebastian development was constructed by GADOT similar to the current $37.5 million I-520 project in South Augusta..

The construction along Windsor Spring should begin around the year 2013/2015.. It's an apples to oranges comparison between Windsor Spring and Berkman rd.. The Windsor Spring project is much larger, needs more right of way, and consist of two different phases..

The widening runs all the way from South Augusta(Tobacco rd) to the city limits of Hephzibah(Hwy 88)..

slowpitch
119
Points
slowpitch 09/18/12 - 03:07 am
2
1

Kudos on cost reductions

The big story to me is changing the project from a 4-lane road to a 2-lane road with a turn lane. At the public meeting in June, the project was in the $20 million ballpark and tonight they were estimating $12 million.

The engineering firm explained that after public feedback, they took a closer look at 20 year traffic projections and scaled back to find some cost savings. The original plan called for moving an access road to a condo complex and included a recreational path on both sides of the road; this plan provides a left and right turn lane for the condo access and a rec path on one side.

Now it's up to us to keep a focus on the costs and, if the project is going to move forward, to make sure they know the public is watching.

blues550
344
Points
blues550 09/18/12 - 06:49 am
1
0

If it's good for The National

Unpublished

Augusta National and it's best interest should move to the head of the line. We derive world wide attention from it. And the the Washington Road area is far more impotant to the economic development of the area. Sorry South Augusta. Facts are facts.

Little Lamb
40139
Points
Little Lamb 09/18/12 - 11:24 am
1
1

Tickets

From the story:

A use for the current section of Berckmans Road has not been determined, Cassell said.

Well, I have an idea:

To run the project across the National's parking lots will require the city to purchase the land from the National. Those parking lots are some of the most expensive land in Augusta, and right-of-way acquisitions have to pay fair market value.

Instead, the city and the National could work out a land swap, whereby the National gets the unneeded portions of the existing Berckmans Rd. and the city gets the right of way for the new road. It's a win - win.

It will also save a lot of headaches for the sheriff at Tournament time. With all the land around the pedestrian gates securely belonging to the National, you won't have that unseemly ticket scalping going on in the street right of way.

obkad
201
Points
obkad 09/18/12 - 08:19 am
6
0

new parking

The Augusta National is behind all of this. Any property toward the Augusta National will be used for their purposes. The land toward Publix will either be sold to the national for NEW parking which is the intent of the National OR the availability of property behind National hills shopping center will be used for parking. What the National wants they get..Complain all you want,, you are mere pawns in a much bigger plan.....

straight shooter
50
Points
straight shooter 09/18/12 - 08:48 am
2
4

Everybody needs to wise up

Everybody needs to wise up on this one, anybody who lives anywhere near the national knows this is a much needed plan to ease traffic jams and waiting in a line of traffic during tournment week and everybody left living up there bought their property knowing full well what they were getting into and as far as south augusta goes that project is twice as much and doesnt see near the traffic washington rd does, dont hate change and quit whining about south augusta most folks dont want to live or do business there thats why no one builds anything new there

seenitB4
72732
Points
seenitB4 09/18/12 - 09:05 am
4
2

straight shooter

I like your comments about the firefighter but on here not so much....

What happens in South Augusta will come to your doorstep too....believe me--you can't run & can't hide....it will overflow into the surrounding counties---I've seen it B4 .....sooo it is best to help remedy the problems where they are---help them make s Augusta better....
Many good hard working Americans live/work in that area ...believe it or not----they didn't cause the downfall of the roads-restaurants-nice stores--GOVERNMENT decisions DID....

resident
440
Points
resident 09/18/12 - 09:13 am
2
1

Ease Up??? I don't think so!!!

This is just a waste of money being taxed that nobody reeally wanted but those that voted for it were just not educating themselves on the real impact of additional taxes on their wallets. There are so many bogus projects like this one and Riverwatch that are being brainwashed into peoples mins as future beneficial projects. This is nothing more than a design to make some property owners very rich. The DIRT is not that expensive so why are we paying so much for DIRT???? The houses and families uprooted most probably by choice out of greed in some cases other my heart goes out to you keep fighting...The traffic congestion was supposed to be eased by the Alexander drive widening/straighten to get flow to riverwatch and I20...Just look it says no golf traffic so they lied to complete their agenda once again ..This is only part 2 of the NAtionals agenda...It only benefits the greedy that most of them don't even live here....How much real money do you think this increases here...be sure to subtract all of the overtime wasted y city officials trying pretty stuff up, You see this so calle dincrease in revenue has not stopped companies from leaving or shutting down, Housing prices from dropping, businesses from closing..So really how much is this National really helping the local economy..Just like how much is this Nuclear reactor really helping the local economy with jobs....Evidently not too much look at the unemployment number for the CSRA....They can't hide truths!!!!

Frank I
1132
Points
Frank I 09/18/12 - 10:08 am
2
1

I like what they're doing

I like what they're doing there.. the Thackers have held out, or possibly aren't interested in selling to the National, so the national works out a way to strong arm them out of their property.. I went to school with their children almost 20 years ago and it would be a damn shame for their property to be chopped almost up to their front door for this..

Wayne guilfoyle
133
Points
Wayne guilfoyle 09/18/12 - 11:11 am
2
0

where was I ?

I was in a meeting yesterday with GDOT, AED, Com. Buchwitz, Senator Stone, Fred Russel via conference with GDOT attorney in coming up with a solution on moving forward with the Windsor Spring Rd. on the issues with the ordaince that Hephzibah has verses what GDOT wants to do. As far as St. Sebastian that was finished before I took office. (but you knew that ) I guess insurance is slow....

Little Lamb
40139
Points
Little Lamb 09/18/12 - 11:21 am
2
0

Results

What was the solution you worked out yesterday, Commissioner Guilfoyle? You can scoop the reporters by posting it here first. Joe Bowles does it all the time.

allhans
21955
Points
allhans 09/18/12 - 11:28 am
3
0

I agree with Little Lamb

I agree with Little Lamb regarding the Land SWAP..I had the same thought when they first mentioned the project.
All systems are on go. Just like the name change by Azziz...done deal.

Wayne guilfoyle
133
Points
Wayne guilfoyle 09/18/12 - 11:43 am
1
0

little lamb

AED is going to come up with the total of how many residents are to be impacted by the widening of Windsor Spring. This is regards to relocating the residence's and the one who's property that is conforming with the Hephzibah's ordiance now and after the widening they will not. This was the 3rd meeting about this and hopefully the next meeting we can address the issue's that was brought up yesterday and move forward.

Little Lamb
40139
Points
Little Lamb 09/18/12 - 11:48 am
1
0

Photo

Looking at the photo up above (the three people looking at the map) reminded me of a great banjo player. Here is a link to her bio:

Alison Brown

Little Lamb
40139
Points
Little Lamb 09/18/12 - 11:50 am
1
0

Ordinance

Thanks for responding, Wayne. It looks like Hephzibah could simply issue a waiver for one residence that doesn't meet their ordinance.

rebellious
18708
Points
rebellious 09/18/12 - 12:27 pm
3
0

Good Info Wayne

Thanks for the update. There is little info out there on the project, so it is good to let people know there are talks and such. Feel free to use this venue to do that. Not sure what insurance is needed for a road widening, but keep us posted.

Wayne guilfoyle
133
Points
Wayne guilfoyle 09/18/12 - 01:01 pm
1
0

little lamb

this actually effects more than 79 plus residences and they are within the City Limits of Hephzibah. And insurance has nothing to do with the widening...

countyman
16820
Points
countyman 09/18/12 - 02:42 pm
0
3

I never understood the

I never understood the comments about the problems in South Augusta spreading into the other counties.. What exactly in South Augusta doesn't already happen in other places? I mean Aiken with a population of 30k has 7-8 homicides this year, North Augusta has Bradleyville rd/Garden apts, and there's less desirable areas throughout Belvedere.. The city limits of Grovetown have plenty of lower income housing, Martinez consist of Ridge Crossing/Wedgewood etc and Evans includes Cox Alley... The nice areas of South Augusta are definitely ahead of several places in the metro/CSRA, comparable to Grovetown, and not too far off from North Augusta..

straight shooter
50
Points
straight shooter 09/18/12 - 02:49 pm
2
0

south augusta

Dont get me wrong im not saying anything about the people who live in south augusta my folks live in south augusta, its just the crime is so bad and no one wants to go there and do business, washington rd and west augusta has the biggest economic impact as far as resturants and entertainment and is a congested big time all of the time and especially during masters week, those of us who live in the area have been fighting the traffic for years and its really way over do and again south augusta from windsor spring on out is a four lane already and doesent see that much congestion.

countyman
16820
Points
countyman 09/18/12 - 03:16 pm
0
3

There's multiple nice areas

There's multiple nice areas of South Augusta who are very safe... I think the demographics of South Augusta play into the negative perception along with the media coverage.. There's no other way you can explain why some people think a place close to 90k-100k in population wouldn't have both nice and bad areas.. The area is majority black, and the major source of media in Augusta is mostly white/conservative.. Unless it's crime related you'll hardly ever see any other type of news coming out of the area.. If Five Guys was opening in any other area besides South Augusta(Colony Plaza) it would have been reported now.. Even Grovetown nowadays can get an Walmart, Applebees, etc(things in South Augusta for years), and the local media drools over the growth... It's sad because of the $115 million Rockwood Plant, $172 million Starbucks plant, multiple projects at Augusta Regional, Hampton Inn hotel btw I-520/Barton Chapel, Waffle House on Tobacco rd, etc are all underway in South Augusta... The image is getting a little better, and the newer areas continue to grow faster... Fairways at Goshen(Goshen area), Longpoint Townhomes(Old Waynesboro), Spring Creek Village/Walton Oaks/Lakes at Spirit Creek(Willis Foreman), The Orchard(part of Brown rd not in the city of Hephzibah), Manchester(Diamond Lakes)... They're even building Sadie Landing(near Pepperidge) in the older portion of Peach Orchard rd.. There's plenty of room for nice shopping/dining/residential along Peach Orchard btw Willis Foreman/Hwy 88 or Mike Padgett Hwy btw Goshen/Brown rd, but the current traffic/infrastructure is located around the Windsor Spring/Peach Orchard intersection....

dwb619
74888
Points
dwb619 09/18/12 - 06:05 pm
2
1

Geez

Even blue collar Belvedere made the columns today.
BELVEDERE, where even the preachers are packing!

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