Originally created 06/05/99

Road to cut through Jamacia Court

Teresa Jones knew it all along.

So when word came Friday that the Georgia Department of Transportation decided to extend River Watch Parkway through her Jamaica Court neighborhood, she was actually relieved.

"We're just disgusted that our lives are on hold," she said. "They are going to take it whether we want them to or not."

Under the current plan, the road will cut right through her garden, through her bedroom, through two large pine trees and the mailbox out front, she said.

"I know it is all built up around here, but you go in this back yard and you think you are in the country," she said.

Mrs. Jones could have seven more years in the country, according to Georgia Department of Transportation Preconstruction Engineer David Griffith.

"We're still five, six, seven years off from construction," he said. "We're going to have over 200 parcels to acquire and money is going to have to be available."

But local officials say the road will be worth the wait.

"That's the county's preferred route, so we're very pleased," said county administrator Steve Szablewski. "From a traffic standpoint, it links River Watch Parkway to Washington Road where we have that connection near Publix, leading to Hereford Farm Road, Belair and eventually I-20. So it will be a very smooth connection for traffic throughout the county."

The selection comes seven months after a November public hearing on the two options for the River Watch route.

The first proposed route -- estimated at $11 million to construct -- takes Old Petersburg westward and ties it into Washington Road at two-lane Owens Road, next to Brandon Wilde retirement center.

It includes filling in a portion of Reed Creek and building a bridge over the CSX railroad.

The second route -- which was selected by the department -- extends along Old Evans Road and intersects Washington Road at Towne Center Drive, a five-lane road that feeds into Hereford Farm Road at Belair Road.

This option -- estimated at $12.7 million to construct -- also requires a bridge to separate the roadway from a CSX railroad.

"I think that the opinions that were expressed at the public hearing we held supported that route," Mr. Griffith said. "And also from a transportation corridor aspect, that route makes more sense as far as enhancing the traffic flow movement."

Now officials are awaiting state and federal environmental clearance on the selected route. That could take up to a year or longer.

"We're probably looking at nine to 12 months," Mr. Griffith said.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Jones is deciding what to do next around her home. Her husband has finished the deck and the new side wall. Now it's time for the carpet.

"Seven years is a long time," she said. "I can't live with this carpet much longer."

Jason B. Smith covers government for The Augusta Chronicle's Columbia County Bureau. He can be reached at 868-1222, Ext. 115, or jbsmith@augustachronicle.com.


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