Three projects will ease William Few traffic

Motorists stuck in traffic snarls on both ends of William Few Parkway might soon get relief.

Three projects to begin by summer will bring new traffic signals and an extended route for the thoroughfare that connects Evans to Grove­town and spans two major school complexes.

First up is the installation of a traffic signal at the Lewiston-William Few intersection, said Matt Schlachter, Columbia Coun­ty’s construction and main­tenance division director.

The project had been stalled because of its high cost. Lewiston Road is a state route, so the Department of Trans­portation was requiring the county to complete nearly $4 million in intersection improvements just to get the light, Schlachter said.

With a new special purpose local option sales tax to fund transportation projects, the department will allow the county to install the signals for a fraction of the cost. The state will rework the entire project in three years when it widens Lewis­ton Road.

“We went from spending about $4 million to about $200,000,” Schlachter said. “It’s a huge savings to the taxpayer.”

The project should be completed before the start of the 2013-14 school year, he said.

A few blocks away, at Cham­blin Road, a blinking red light has provided a temporary fix.

After the county’s discretionary funding from the transportation sales tax becomes available – expected to be about $160,000 per month – the intersection will get turning lanes or be converted to a roundabout, as recommended by a consultant.

Work on the intersection could start by August, Schlach­ter said, with completion by the end of the year.

At the northern end of Wil­liam Few, a major source of school traffic jams should get relief when the highway is extended to connect with Hardy McManus Road. That project has been hit with repeated delays.

“We’ve just been snake-bit from Day 1,” Schlachter said, with problems that included a consultant going out of business, an engineer being replaced because of a conflict, a change in the scope of the project midway, and the state forcing the county to redo environmental studies after standards changed.

With final environmental approvals expected soon, the estimated $7 million project could go out to bids as early as May, Schlachter said.

“It’ll actually be built with federal dollars, which is why we had to go through so much environmental (permitting),” he said.

The extension will include a two-lane highway with a center turn lane, crossing Euchee Creek and wetlands via a $3 million bridge. The route will connect with Hardy McManus near the entrance to Grace Bap­tist Church.

Construction could begin by the end of the summer, Schlach­ter said, and take 12 to 18 months to complete.

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