Originally created 06/19/02

Traffic will ease as project shifts

There just might be some hope for frustrated motorists on Interstate 20.

Rusty Merritt, of the Georgia Department of Transportation, says the DOT is expecting traffic congestion on I-20 in McDuffie and Columbia counties to ease within the next week or two, when a major portion of the repair work has been completed.

"We're close to the point where we're going to be finishing the righthand lane," he said, adding that left-lane work will follow. "A lot of the equipment won't be necessary anymore. And we won't be bringing in as many materials. So less trucks slowing down means smoother-flowing traffic."

Mr. Merritt said it remains to be seen how much quicker travel will be once the right-lane work ends. One thing, he said, is certain: Work on the left lanes will not be as extensive. That should create a less intrusive construction zone and easier access to exit ramps for motorists.

Mr. Merritt said the project - resurfacing the 22-mile stretch of interstate from the Belair Road exit to the second Thomson exit - is on schedule and about 90 percent completed in McDuffie County and 75 percent completed in Columbia County.

Work in McDuffie County is expected to end in September. In Columbia County, the finish date is set for next summer.

Currently, Mr. Merritt said, traffic jams occur most often after 3 p.m. in the westbound lanes.

Construction at the site has been so exhaustive that the project was the only one in the state to continue during Memorial Day weekend. Mr. Merritt said that was because of the right-lane work.

"It was critical because that part of the operation takes a week to shut down and a week to start back up," he said.

Now, the I-20 construction will be allowed to shut down for holidays.

"We're at the point now where we won't have any lane closures for the Fourth of July weekend," Mr. Merritt said.

Reach Preston Sparks at (706) 828-3904.

Work on the left lanes of Interstate 20 is expected to begin within a few weeks. Officials say this construction phase will be less intrusive and cause fewer traffic jams.


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