Originally created 07/21/02

Overpass proposed to lessen car flow



Lowell and Gloria Greenbaum know all about the traffic congestion that Augusta's medical complex attracts to 15th Street.

Every day, they take 15th as an exit from their Waters Edge neighborhood.

"It's a big glump (of traffic) over here," Mrs. Greenbaum said.

Five years from now, that "glump" and the look of the area are expected to change with a new route officials say will make the drive to Augusta's medical center easier.

"This will help them because it will divert a lot of traffic," David Griffith, of the Georgia Department of Transportation, said of the Greenbaums and others who live along 15th Street.

"It's a good thing," Mr. Greenbaum said.

The idea is to construct a 2-mile thoroughfare from River Watch Parkway to extensions of Greene Street and St. Sebastian Way. The project will cost $13.8 million, 80 percent of which will be paid with federal money.

Now, most of the traffic congestion in the area is on 13th and 15th streets, especially when a train is moving through the area.

"This project will improve the accessibility to the three medical complexes," Mr. Griffith said, adding that the new route will run next to the railroad tracks, eliminating crossings.

The preliminary plan, which was unveiled last week, proposes that an off ramp be built off River Watch with an overpass crossing the railroad tracks, Broad Street and 15th that would connect to an extension of Greene. Motorists would exit River Watch almost one mile before it crosses over 15th.

"Motorists (on River Watch) will have a choice to make on which way they will want to go," Mr. Griffith said.

Greene would be four lanes to its connection with the new extension of St. Sebastian, which now ends at Walton Way.

Six commercial properties on Greene are to be taken in the right-of-way acquisition, according to the preliminary plan.

Some businesses that won't be taken could lose their access to the new route on Greene.

"It's going to be very difficult," said Jane Ellis, the office manager for Modern Business Equipment, 1445 Greene St. Ms. Ellis said her business and others west of her location on Greene will not be given an opening in the road's curb for motorists to enter. Access to her business would have to be from a back road, she said.

"We're all cut off by the proposed plan," she said, adding that her concerns are being considered by the Georgia DOT.

Still, other business owners say the project should help the area.

"I think it would be good for downtown Augusta," said George Carden, the president of AB Georgia Business Net, which is on Greene Street near Enterprise Mill and specializes as an Internet provider. "It would be a big help to the Enterprise Mill."

Valerie Spratlin, a spokeswoman for Rural/Metro Ambulance Service, said the new route also would be a bonus for ambulances.

"Our main problem downtown is trains," she said. "So, if it would miss the trains, it would be wonderful. They could build it tomorrow."

Mr. Griffith said the project is about two years away from being let and five years away from completion. As part of the plan, new sidewalks and bike lanes would be added to all of the proposed roadways.

Public comments on the plan can be submitted until Aug. 5 to Harvey D. Keepler, state environmental/location engineer, Georgia Department of Transportation, 3993 Aviation Circle, Atlanta, GA 30336-1593.

Reach Preston Sparks at (706) 828-3904.