Originally created 07/19/00

DOT plans to widen Davis Road



Jake Pollard can remember when Kate Davis sold candy at the counter of her country store.

The road beside the store was named for her because she owned all the property nearby, fields where West Town Market Square now stands.

That was a time when Davis Grocery - which fronted Washington Road - was the hub of Martinez, the crossroads where the dirt lanes of Davis Road and Washington Road converged.

"Ms. Kate had a little country store, not much wider than you could reach across," Mr. Pollard said. "Her store had everything a real country store should have - a candy counter where you could buy one piece of candy or a bagful, she had canned goods, she had most anything you could think of. It was so small it was really cute. She was a sweet lady. She loved to talk politics, and everybody loved her."

But things have changed since the 1940s, '50s and '60s. Davis Road now handles 34,900 cars a day and is expected to see 38,600 cars a day by 2025, according to Georgia Department of Transportation estimates. The road has become a major artery, and the DOT has plans to widen the two-lane road to four lanes.

The DOT will hold a public information meeting on the project Thursday from 4 to 7 p.m. at Julian Smith Barbecue Pit.

The project will widen and reconstruct Davis Road from Pleasant Home Road to Washington Road in Richmond and Columbia counties, a 3.10-mile project. Debra Pennington, DOT planning and programming engineer, said right of way acquisition is expected to begin in 2002, after environmental clearance is received. An estimated 75 parcels will be affected by the widening project. Because it is in the preliminary planning stages, the cost has not been finalized, she said.

"This is one that's going to affect so many people," Ms. Pennington said. "There aren't any secrets, but we want people to know what is anticipated. Until we have a survey, we don't know exactly how many it will impact. This is not set in concrete - this a chance for local citizens to give input. This is very early, and nothing has been finalized. It is a concept at this point."

This is one of a series of projects along that corridor, Ms. Pennington said. The project dovetails with the DOT's plan to improve the structure of the on and off ramps at Interstate 20 and I-520 (Bobby Jones Expressway). Ultimately, the bridge at Walton Way Extension also will be replaced with on and off ramps from I-20, and the road will be widened to Skinner Mill Road.

"What we are really trying to do is show people what we intend to do for road improvements along that corridor," Ms. Pennington said. "They are going to have plans which show that whole corridor there. They feel it's better at this time to get public comment on the whole project."

Davis Road will be widened to a four-lane divided roadway with a 20-foot raised median and 4-foot bike lanes on each side, with curb and gutter. The project also will include 5-foot sidewalks.

The existing right of way is 80 feet. However, 104 feet of right of way will be needed to implement the project.

Tommy King Sr., who has had his funeral home business on Davis Road for the past 32 years, supports the state's plan to widen the road.

"We have a big problem with the traffic out here in front of us every day, seven days a week," he said. "We thought Bobby Jones was going to alleviate all that traffic, but it made it worse. It's now become a major route to the new shopping center. "

He can remember when, in the 1960s, there was a movement to change the name of the road from Davis Road to Walton Way Extension.

"Everyone from Columbia County was against that," Mr. King said. "Ms. Kate Davis was the founder of this property up here, and we didn't think it needed to be changed after all that time."

U.H. Pittman was a Columbia County commissioner when the road was paved in 1976.

"It was just a little old sandy road through there, about like a mule and wagon road," Mr. Pittman said. "Now it's a main artery coming in. It really should be widened."

Reach Melissa Hall at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 113, or ccchron@augustachronicle.com.

Davis Road meeting

What: Public information meeting on DOT plan to widen Davis Road to four lanes

Where: Julian Smith Barbecue Pit

When: Thursday from 4 to 7 p.m.