By Valerie Baldowski
Road-improvement projects are continuing throughout Henry County, and on Dec. 29, officials celebrated the end of one project and the beginning of another.
According to Julie Hoover-Ernst, communications director for the county, a ribbon-cutting ceremony, marking the completion of a paving project on Duffy Drive in McDonough, was held on Monday. The .28-mile road connects McGarity Drive to Lake Dow Road.
Some of those in attendance were District 3 Commissioner Randy Stamey; Micheal Hill, Special Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) construction coordinator; SPLOST Right-of-Way Coordinator Brenda Arnold; and Public Works Division Director Terry McMickle.
Hoover-Ernst said the construction was done by Cummings Site Development. The cost to improve Duffy Drive was $423,213, with $230,000 of the money coming from SPLOST funds, and the county Department of Transportation paying the balance.
After the ceremony, ground was broken on the first phase of the McDonough Parkway extension. The 1.15-mile roadway will stretch from the end of the pavement near Jonesboro Road at Micah Drive -- between the Autumn Lakes and River Trace subdivisions -- to Georgia Highway 42 North, south of Walnut Creek.
As part of the construction project, she said, crews will build a two-lane road from Micah Drive to Ivey Edwards Lane, where a four-lane bridge will be built over the Norfolk Southern Railway tracks. A four-lane divided road will continue from there, linking Ivey Edwards Lane to Highway 42.
The extension will cost about $6.6 million, with the Georgia Department of Transportation funding $3,193,000, and the Norfolk Southern Railway paying five percent of the construction costs to build the bridge over the railroad tracks. The remaining balance will be paid with SPLOST funds.
The project is expected to be the first of five phases planned to form a bypass, and redirect traffic around The Square.
Stamey said the extension will benefit motorists traveling through McDonough. "This link of the McDonough Parkway Extension is part of a long-term plan to relieve much of the traffic congestion affecting The Square," he said. "We are excited to finally start the project, so that we can begin to create a true bypass around McDonough."
Roque Romero, transportation manager for the Henry County SPLOST Department, said the project was needed. "It's definitely going to alleviate the traffic congestion on The Square."
Romero said in addition to easing traffic congestion, the bridge across the railroad tracks will allow emergency vehicles to pass through more quickly, speeding up response times.
"That's definitely a big, big plus," he added. "Just having to wait for a train to go by can be a lot of minutes."