Originally created 12/10/06

Millions will be spent to quicken commute



Augusta's planned St. Sebastian Way project will link River Watch Parkway with the University Hospital area. The two-mile connection, which is expected to take at least three years to complete, will be open for bids in March.

An ambitious road project that will allow commuter traffic quicker access to downtown Augusta's sprawling medical centers should be getting off the ground next spring and finished within four years.

In planning since the mid-1980s, the St. Sebastian Way project will create a two-mile connection from River Watch Parkway to the areas around University Hospital, Medical College of Georgia and the Augusta Veterans Hospital.

The road will be raised, similar to John C. Calhoun Expressway.

Jim Williamson, the Augusta-Richmond County land acquisition manager, said the project will trim traffic and driving times by allowing motorists to circumvent many downtown traffic lights and railroad tracks.

"It's designed to speed the traffic up through there - not with a faster speed limit, but actually having less turns and less time at traffic signals," Mr. Williamson said.

Officials hope that by bypassing the railroad crossings, St. Sebastian Way will provide a speedy alternative to the frequent traffic jams along 13th and 15th streets - especially near the historic Butt Bridge. The project is expected to draw traffic away from these roads and whisk more motorists to River Watch Parkway, Mr. Williamson said.

The city has purchased about 60 percent of the land needed for the project, according to project manager David Griffith. He said the project will be open for bids in March and by then the city will have acquired the remaining parcels of land.

Based on preliminary plans, the Augusta Public Transit transfer facility on Broad Street will move part of its driveway to make way for the work, and Cottage Street near Enterprise Mill will be absorbed by the new road.

Once the project is assigned to a contractor, it should take 36 to 42 months to build and will cost about $21 million, Mr. Griffith said. Drivers should expect lane closures along Broad, Reynolds and Jones streets, but Mr. Williamson doubts any of the major roads will be completely shut down.

"They try not to close them unless it's just completely necessary," he said. "Then if they do, they'll put up detour signs and tell everyone how to get around it."

Reach Adam Folk at (706) 823-3339 or adam.folk@augustachronicle.com.

ST. SEBASTIAN WAY PROJECT

Projected cost of project: $21 million


Percentage of the cost covered by the state; federal funds will cover the rest: 20


Percentage of the land needed for the project already purchased by the city: 60