Originally created 03/03/03

Work begins at full steam



Round-the-clock construction gets into full swing today in the eastbound lanes of Interstate 20 in Richmond County, and transportation officials are hoping motorists heed warnings to seek alternate routes.

Until today, workers were repaving the road only at night. They will work 24 hours a day for 13 days straight to finish the eastbound lanes before Masters Week, when construction will stop. The new schedule includes Saturday and Sunday.

Workers returned to the project at 7 p.m. Sunday, using orange barrels to block one eastbound lane of I-20. Flashing message boards inform motorists of the estimated delay times, said Vonda Everett, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Transportation.

"Last time we had a project like this, we had some significant delays," Ms. Everett said. "It created some bad feelings about the project. Hopefully, (the message boards) will keep some traffic off the interstate."

DOT officials are suggesting that eastbound motorists take Exit 194 onto Belair Road to Jimmie Dyess Parkway to Gordon Highway to Martintown Road in North Augusta and back onto I-20.

This is the first phase of the accelerated construction plan, which will close I-20's eastbound inside lane for a complete resurfacing.

A second construction phase, involving the resurfacing of the westbound inside lane, will begin Sunday. It also will take place 24 hours a day for 13 consecutive days.

The project will improve a 3.4-mile stretch of the interstate from the Warren Road overpass near Bobby Jones Expressway to the Savannah River.

The project will continue after the two 13-day construction periods. The entire I-20 project, which began in January, is scheduled to be completed by October and will involve more round-the-clock work schedules.

DOT officials said the message boards should help people plan their trips through the construction.

The system uses speed detectors, a computer and 12 portable message boards to let motorists know how long they will be delayed. A speed detector will clock vehicle as they pass and will send data to a laptop computer, which can be operated away from the work site. That information is used to calculate a wait time, which is then sent to the message signs.

DOT officials said the message boards will be positioned farther up the road for early notification. American Signal, an Atlanta company, is providing the software and equipment at a cost of $387,000.

Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (706) 828-3851 or greg.rickabaugh@augustachronicle.com.