If you commute on Mike Padgett Highway, plan on budgeting more time for your drive.
Construction started Monday on a five-mile stretch of Mike Padgett between Old Waynesboro and Bennock Mill roads, spurring lane and speed limit reductions. Motorists should seek alternate routes if possible, Georgia Department of Transportation said.
“It may get congested since they are condensing it from four to two lanes,” said department spokeswoman Cissy McNure. “Their commute time is going to take longer.”
A detour was not set up because the road will remain open during construction, which is expected to take 30 months, McNure said. The speed limit was reduced from 55 mph to 35.
Last week, Plant Vogtle engineer Kim Moncus, of Grovetown, changed her route to the nuclear power facility. She plans to drive U.S. Highway 25 to Waynesboro, and then take side roads to Vogtle.
“I didn’t want to deal with the backups,” she said. “As bad as traffic already is, I can’t imagine how it will be with one lane (in each direction) and construction going on.”
The road work overlaps with peak years of construction at Vogtle, where 3,000 workers are building two new reactors. The workforce will spike to 5,000 before finishing the reactors, scheduled to go online in 2017 and 2018.
Moncus’ alternate route will add five to 15 minutes each way to her drive. She knows the highway needs improvements, especially for safety, but questions the timing of construction.
“They knew the Vogtle project was coming out here for years. They could have done it before peak construction,” she said.
Eric Rasmussen, another worker at the Vogtle construction site, added 10 minutes to his commute Monday after taking U.S. 25 instead of Mike Padgett Highway. He didn’t want to take the chance of being delayed in the construction zone.
“It’s nice to avoid unpredictability,” he said.
The project will add a raised concrete center median with dedicated left-turn lanes and 10-foot shoulders to Mike Padgett. The improvements will reduce car collisions and traffic fatalities, one of the goals of the project, GDOT said.
Construction is estimated to cost $30.4 million, in addition to millions that have already been spent on engineering and right-of-way acquisitions.
Roland Hogland, who has lived on Mike Padgett since 1973, has seen several fatalities in front of his house. He lost 71 feet of his front yard for right-of-way acquisition, but he doesn’t argue with a project to save people’s lives.
“Once they get through with it, I hope it will be better for us,” he said.
Hogland doesn’t even try to leave his driveway during the morning and afternoon rush hours. He doesn’t want to get in the way of speeding drivers and gravel and logging trucks.
Industrial salesman Fred Marsh, who makes frequent visits to Industrial Paper on Mike Padgett, said traffic flowed smoothly Monday morning and he didn’t need the extra time he built into his commute. The road needs improvement and he’s watching for it to be completed on time.
“It’s a necessary evil,” Marsh said about the construction.
For John Sampson, the owner of Chef Redd’s BBQ and Breakfast Kitchen, construction is great news for his business.
He’s feeding road crews and nearby residents who’d rather stop for lunch at his place than drive through the construction zone.
“People don’t want to go out of the area and get stuck getting back in. I’m right here,” he said.