Originally created 11/10/05

DOT is set to submit parkway proposal



Officials with the South Carolina Department of Transportation hope to submit a request for proposal to construct Phase II of the Palmetto Parkway to consultants by Thanksgiving.

If everything goes according to schedule, said Michael Meetze, the DOT program manager, then a contractor could be selected by March and construction could get under way in the spring.

The $140 million project will include two distinctive features - one of which will be readily apparent to travelers.

A five-mile multipurpose lane for walkers or bikers will run parallel to the parkway between Ascauga Lake and Atomic roads. A 6-foot chain-link fence will separate the asphalt lane, which will be 10 feet wide, from the bypass.

"We're not hooking it up to the Greeneway, but North Augusta could," Mr. Meetze said.

Charles Martin, the city administrator, said North Augusta, which requested the inclusion of the trail in the project, plans to connect the lane with the Greeneway, a paved recreational trail that follows an abandoned railroad right of way purchased by the city in 1988.

"It will have potential connections at several locations," he said. "It's a furtherance of our goal of trying to connect neighborhoods and provide an alternate mode of transportation."

The construction method also represents a departure from the usual way the state Transportation Department conducts business.

"This is going to be a design-build project," Mr. Meetze said. "Our traditional way of doing projects has been DOT designed it."

He said the design-build method, in which the contractor designs and builds the project to DOT specifications, should speed up the construction process. The contractor can start building one part of the road while finishing the design work on another, he said.

The project is scheduled for completion in the fall of 2008.

The 6.5-mile portion of the bypass will link Phase I. which runs from Sand Bar Ferry Road in Augusta to U.S. Highway 1, with Interstate 20 near exit 5 at U.S. Highway 25.

Phase II of the Palmetto Parkway, or Interstate 520, will have interchanges at four locations - U.S. Highway 1, South Carolina Highway 125/Belvedere-Clearwater Road, U.S. 25 at Ascauga Lake Road and I-20.

The state has financed $160 million of the total cost of $191.6 million for Phases I and II.

Aiken County provided $15 million in local option sales tax money, and the federal government contributed $16.6 million.

Mr. Meetze said the Palmetto Parkway, which is an extension of Georgia's Bobby Jones Expressway, should alleviate traffic in North Augusta and foster economic development in both states.

Mr. Martin said the parkway also would redirect truck traffic around the city.

"It's something we've been working on for 25 years," he said.

Mr. Meetze said Phase I has carried 15,000 to 17,000 vehicles a day since it opened in June 2004.

The traffic count is expected to rise to at least 30,000 vehicles a day once the parkway is complete.

Reach Betsy Gilliland at (803) 648-1395, ext. 113, or betsy.gilliland@augustachronicle.com.