Originally created 07/30/01

Widening project gets under way



Charles Garner Sr. of Garner Auto Sales doesn't like the dust settling on his automobiles, but he's willing to look on the sunny side while the Washington Road widening project is under way.

"It's as good an excuse as any for a sale," he said.

The Georgia Department of Transportation is working on a major road project - referred to as the River Watch Parkway/Old Petersburg Road/Washington Road/Baston Road widening project - that will expand River Watch Parkway and widen Baston and Washington roads.

Department of Transportation Area Engineer Gus Cooper said the project should be completed by August 2002.

"Right now, we're still in the process of relocating utilities," Mr. Cooper said. "We're pouring sidewalks, laying storm drains, building catch basins and laying water lines. We're waiting on a lot of the utilities to be relocated. We're in the preliminary construction phase, and you won't see anything taking shape until we get past these items."

DOT officials said detours will be unlikely during the construction project. The project will widen Washington, Baston and Old Petersburg roads by creating new outside lanes, so as to minimize traffic interruption.

"There should be very little interruption," Mr. Cooper said. "If anything, there might be one lane closed at various times, but I foresee that happening on down the road."

Stretching for about a mile along Washington Road, the project will add two left-turn lanes from Washington Road onto Baston Road. The $6.7 million project, which also includes a median, will begin at Iron & Steel Drive and end at Davant Road, one block west of Pleasant Home Road. According to the DOT's 2000 figures, about 30,786 cars pass that way each day.

The four lanes of River Watch Parkway will be extended across Baston Road to Old Petersburg Road down to Stephens Creek Road.

The remaining portion of Baston Road will be widened to four lanes from Washington Road to the existing four lanes where work was previously done on the Furys Ferry end.

Anticipating disruption from the road projects, some Washington Road businesses have pulled up stakes and moved away.

Street & Trail Motorsports Inc. moved to a new location in Evans. Manager David Heath said the decision to move was hastened by the DOT's plans to insert a Washington Road median that would have cut into the business's parking lot.

Gold's Gym owners cited the road expansion project as their reason for leaving the area. Edward Hodge Jr. and Linda Hodge sold the 2.9-acre Gold's Gym property to Jim Hudson, a Columbia auto dealer who is constructing a Lexus dealership on the $1.8 million property. Mr. Hodge said the state's plan to widen Washington Road motivated him to sell.

Milton Ruben, the owner of Milton Ruben Auto Mall, will be in the thick of things during road construction. But he's willing to stick it out through the rough times. Mr. Ruben, who has had his dealership on Washington Road since 1987, said 10 to 40 feet of his lot will be sacrificed to the road project.

Mr. Garner, who will not lose any of his property, is taking it all in stride.

"The construction is not hampering us in any way," he said. "I've been through construction when they widened Gordon Highway and put the median down the middle of it. Then I was up at the corner of Bobby Jones where Bourne is now when they widened Washington Road. And I was still there when they tore down the filling station and widened Bobby Jones across there.

"That's just part of life. It's no big deal. Been through it before, and we can take it again."

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