Uneasy access

For Sally Knight, getting onto Interstate 20 has become a gamble she can no longer take.

"You just have to step on the gas and pray," said Ms. Knight, who works at Pilot Travel Center near River Watch Parkway.

Construction eliminated acceleration lanes on I-20, and stop signs were placed at the on-ramps, causing long lines while drivers wait to enter the interstate from River Watch Parkway, Washington Road and parts of Bobby Jones Expressway.

"I started taking River Watch Parkway instead," Ms. Knight said, adding that some of her co-workers are doing the same. "Every day something changes out there (on I-20)."

Officials say they hope to remove some of the stop signs by Memorial Day, but the rest could remain until late June or July.

Sam Stutt, the project manager for the I-20 and Bobby Jones Expressway interchange roadwork, said they had to choose between closing ramps or using stop signs.

"We're shoehorning a much bigger road in the original footprint," Mr. Stutt said. "You've got to remember, we're expanding this whole interchange without buying a right-of-way."

Jeff Terry, of the South Carolina Department of Transportation, said he's not sure his office would be permitted to use the temporary ramps the way Georgia is. However, Mr. Terry said an exception could be made for a project of this size.

"That's a tough call and I'll be honest, I'm glad it's not one I have to make," Mr. Terry said.

The project isn't scheduled to be complete for five months, but some of the new lanes could be opened by Memorial Day, said Mike Keene, the Augusta area engineer for the Georgia Department of Transportation. He said the stop signs will remain at the on-ramps from River Watch Parkway to I-20, but the ones on Washington Road could be gone as soon as next week.

By late June or July, he said it is possible the new lanes could be opened for most of the project.

"Sometime in midsummer -- most definitely by late summer -- (drivers) will see a world of change out there," he said.

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