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U.S. 19/41, Ga. 20 work on pace

By Clay Wilson

Construction on the state highway department's planned relocation of the Ga. Highway 20 – U.S. Highway 19/41 intersection is 10 to 15 percent complete.

Georgia Department of Transportation engineers say that so far the construction has caused few traffic delays, and that – if it's done correctly – this should hold true in the future.

"We're not having to disrupt traffic flow – Most of our job is through the woods," said Craig Sewell, construction project engineer for the DOT's District Three office in Griffin.

Sewell is overseeing work on the first leg of the 7-plus-mile, $33.5 million project, which will connect Richard Petty Boulevard across Highway 19/41 (by overpass) with a relocated Highway 20. The project is part of the DOT's plan to four-lane Highway 20 from Highway 19/41 to I-75.

Sewell said that the project team for his leg of the construction, which entails approximately four miles of work, has spent about 15 percent of the money estimated for the project's cost. Work on the first leg began in September.

According to David Akin, District III project manager, the DOT measures progress on construction in terms of how much of the projected cost has been used.

Specifically, Sewell said his crews have cleared the site of their work, built two culverts and started work on two of the five bridges the first leg will include.

The project's first leg runs from Richard Petty Boulevard to a point just west of the Towaliga River, where it picks up the second leg. The first leg entails constructing a new road – hence the minimal traffic disruptions so far.

But Akin said that even the second leg, which will include ripping up the existing Highway 20 and constructing new lanes, shouldn't cause a major glitch in traffic flow.

"When we do a traffic shift there shouldn't be much of a delay – if it's done properly," he said, "and they look like they're going to do fine."

Akin said that in the traffic shift, workers will open the new portion of Highway 20 at the same time they close the existing section. The leg of the project that Akin oversees covers approximately 5.4 miles.

Once crews are working along the length of the project, Akin said, the DOT will lower the speed limit through the construction zone to 45 m.p.h. He said, though, that he doesn't yet know when this reduction will go into effect.

He said the second leg is about 10 percent complete in terms of cost. Crews have cleared the right of way, built a culvert and started work on the two bridges planned for the second leg. Work on this portion began in January.

He said, however, that recent rains have delayed the earth-moving portion of the project.

The second leg of construction has a projected completion date of Sept. 30, 2005, Akin said. Sewell said the first leg is projected for completion in October of that year.

One person who will be glad to see the project completed is Atlanta Motor Speedway President Ed Clark. According to him, AMS officials are enthusiastic about the race-time traffic relief they expect the new construction to provide.

"We certainly think it's going to make a significant improvement," Clark said. "That's going to give us a major traffic corridor on either side of the speedway," he said.

But he also said the project's impact will extend beyond AMS, to the commuters from Spalding and other counties to the south who will have easier access to Atlanta.

And, he said, "(The project is) going to open up this end of Henry County moreso to business and commerce."