By Michael Davis
As work progresses on the Eagle's Landing Parkway bridge, one of the busiest interchanges in the county, just down the street at Rock Quarry Road, a widening project has been put on hold.
County transportation officials say the initial scope of the project, a four-lane road from Eagle's Landing Parkway to Red Oak Road, will barely scratch the surface of what's needed in the area.
Now with concept design under way, Henry County Public Works Director Michael Harris said the full scope of the project will create a four-lane highway from Eagle's Landing Parkway to Ga. Highway 42 with a bridge over the Norfolk Southern Railroad.
"It's still a priority project, obviously," Harris said Monday.
It's a priority project because Rock Quarry Road provides a direct north-south corridor from the north side of the county to the area's only hospital, Henry Medical Center.
"You get caught at the wrong time with a slow moving train and you're having a heart attack, you're having a bad day," District IV Commissioner Gerry Adams said when the board gave cautious approval to rework the project.
Harris said initial plans for Rock Quarry Road were broken into two different projects: one for the bridge and one for the widening. But with only $2.7 million in funding from the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority, Harris said little could be done short term to fix traffic problems.
Hoping that when the county's design for a permanent fix is in place state money will be available for construction, Harris said the county's case is better when preliminary work is already finished at county expense. "That's the way the system works now," Harris said.
State Department of Transportation spokesman Bert Brantley agreed. "Many times, the locals are the ones that deserve the credit for getting things moving," Brantley said.
Henry County Transportation Planning Manager Lisa Glover said despite no target date associated with the Rock Quarry Road project while it lies in long-range plans, because of the need, the project should, "rise to the top" with the next round of funding allocations from the state.
One side to the other
Last month, county officials voted to move more than $1 million from one side of Interstate 75 at Eagle's Landing Parkway to the other, Glover said.
The money will be used to acquire extra right-of-way for a project to expand Eagle's Landing Parkway from the hospital to Ga. Highway 42 from two lanes to six, as suggested by state officials.
Harris said state traffic numbers say the highway will warrant six lanes by 2020, though plans are to widen only to four lanes in the immediate future. The extra funding will allow the county to buy the right-of-way and design for future expansion, while only tapping funding for four lanes of pavement.
State plans associated with the Eagle's Landing bridge widening call for project to stop with four lanes at Rock Quarry Road on the east side and not far from a nearby convenience store on the Hudson Bridge Road side.
Bridge work almost
The state DOT's Brantley said that commuters in the Eagle's Landing area should see at least some relief when the new section of the bridge over the interstate is open.
Expecting the northern section of the bridge to be complete by the end of the year, Brantley said crews are well on target.
The first half will be three lanes: one lane in each direction across the interstate and a full turn lane in the middle to feed onto the interstate.
As the bridge stands now, through traffic has to wait behind traffic turning left off of the bridge.
And while Brantley stopped short of saying the new side of the bridge will provide complete relief, at least traffic will flow across it a little easier, he said.
While the warm weather lasts, Brantley said, crews are working to pave the asphalt "approaches" to the bridge on both sides. Paving the actual "deck" of the bridge could come this week or next, he said.