Originally created 08/20/04

Roadwork tests patience of drivers



Karen O'Gorman looked at the line of cars on Furys Ferry Road and let loose a long sigh.

"I've got to come back through that," she said during her Thursday morning commute.

Mrs. O'Gorman travels up and down Furys Ferry Road twice each morning: once to drop off Mathilde Mattebjerg, a 15-year-old foreign exchange student who attends Lakeside High School, and again to take her 10-year-old son, Tommy, to Stevens Creek Elementary School.

With ongoing construction on Furys Ferry Road and the recent closure of Stevens Creek Road, the West Lake resident often battles heavy traffic to get her charges to school.

"Every day is different," she said while waiting to turn left off Furys Ferry onto Evans to Locks Road. "You never know what you're going to get from day to day. Some days it's fine. Some days it's horrible."

The homemaker leaves each morning at 7 to make sure she has enough time to take Mathilde to school and return home to make the trek for Tommy.

Originally from Chicago, Mrs. O'Gorman said she and her husband, Marty, are used to bad traffic. But the unpredictable Martinez traffic still baffles her.

"I haven't been able to detect any kind of pattern," she said. "It all seems to come in random pockets. Sometimes I wonder where all these cars are coming from."

Lately, more and more Columbia County residents are wondering the same thing, as the double whammy of construction work on Furys Ferry and Stevens Creek makes their morning commutes even harder.

Furys Ferry was supposed to be finished before construction on Stevens Creek started, but transportation officials said it wasn't possible when Furys Ferry fell behind schedule.

George Brewer, preconstruction engineer for the Georgia Department of Transportation, has blamed the delays on the contractor, Reeves Construction, which is paying $1,600 per day in late fees.

Yet Dan Garcia, Reeves' regional manager, said the holdup mainly has been caused by the weather and Georgia Power not moving almost 100 utility poles out of the way fast enough.

"We were able to do some clearing and grading around the poles, but it's not really productive, and going beyond that presents a safety hazard," he said.

Now the $9.6 million project that should have been completed last month won't be finished until July of next year.

In the meantime, area engineer Scott Stephens said the DOT and Reeves are doing all they can to alleviate the inconvenience, from adjusting the traffic signal timing at Furys Ferry and Evans to Locks to hiring a subcontractor to place asphalt on top of a paved section of road in lieu of first removing the asphalt.

"This month alone we've taken our percent completed to 42 percent (from 35 percent)," Mr. Garcia said.

As crews work in sections, Furys Ferry is scheduled to be completed from River Watch Parkway to Baston Road by November, with the rest opening next summer.

There was a concern that West Lake residents such as Mrs. O'Gorman would have to deal with roadwork blocking the subdivision's entrance. But Mr. Stephens promises that will not happen until Stevens Creek is reopened. He also said the construction at the entrance would not exceed two weeks.

"It's just a bad situation," he said of motorists' overall difficulties. "But we've done things above and beyond to help alleviate the congestion."

Reach Dena Levitz at (706) 823-3339 or dena.levitz@augustachronicle.com.

Reach Donnie Fetter at (706) 868-1222, ext. 113, or donnie.fetter@augustachronicle.com.

7:12 a.m.: Traffic creeps through the intersection at Furys Ferry and Evans to Locks roads during the commute.

THE O'GORMAN CAR TREK

7:05 a.m.: Leaves her West Lake home
7:06 a.m.: Reaches Furys Ferry Road
7:12 a.m.: Turns left onto Evans to Locks Road
7:15 a.m.: Turns left onto Blue Ridge Drive
7:20 a.m.: Turns left into driveway leading to Lakeside High School
7:25 a.m.: Drops off Mathilde
7:29 a.m.: Leaves Lakeside
7:30 a.m.: Turns back onto Evans to Locks Road
7:32 a.m.: Turns back onto Furys Ferry Road
7:38 a.m.: Arrives back at West Lake entrance
7:39 a.m.: Arrives back home
7:53 a.m.: Leaves house again
7:54 a.m.: Reaches Furys Ferry Road
7:57 a.m.: Turns right onto Evans to Locks
7:58 a.m.: Turns in to Stevens Creek Elementary and drops off Tommy
7:59 a.m.: Turns back onto Evans to Locks Road
8:01 a.m.: Turns left on Furys Ferry Road
8:06 a.m.: Arrives back at West Lake entrance
8:08 a.m.: Arrives back home.