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Henry bridge project moving forward

By Valerie Baldowski

Henry County officials anticipate closing part of Rock Quarry Road in September, for construction of an overpass that will take traffic over a railroad crossing that officials have complained can impede traffic along a route to Henry County's hospital.

The Henry County Commission plans to begin the bidding process for the Rock Quarry Road bridge overpass project in July, Henry County District IV Commissioner Reid Bowman said.

The road closure is expected in early September, he continued.

"The day we start the work is the day we close the road," Bowman said. The road could be closed for at least 10 months, he said.

The project, which has been in the planning stages since 1993, will involve building a bridge over the railroad tracks at Railroad Street in Stockbridge, at the Vulcan Materials Co., Bowman said.

The money for the work will come from the county's Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) budget.

The county has set aside between $5 million and $6 million for the work, according to Henry County Manager James "Butch" Sanders.

Bowman updated the Stockbridge City Council recently, on the project.

During the meeting, Bowman asked for and received approval to move forward with plans to close the road for the work.

"We're going to let it out for bids sometime in July," Bowman said on Thursday. "When they bid it, part of the bid package will be a schedule they will have to give to us. We generally give 30 days to get their pricing in."

After the bidding process, Bowman said the contractor that the county chooses will have another 30 days to complete the necessary paperwork prior to starting work.

The dates for each phase of work are speculative, he continued, adding that the time frame for the project will depend on the contractor's schedule.

Initially, plans were to complete the work in two phases, with the contractor working on a portion of the bridge while keeping the road open, then completing the other portion after closing the road, Bowman said.

It would have taken approximately 18 months to complete the work in that way, he said. Doing the work all at once, Bowman said, would save time and money.

"This is the possibility on that -- that we would save somewhere in the neighborhood of between $150,000 and $200,000," he said. "We can't tie that down until we actually get the bids in.

"We'd save anywhere from three to four months off of construction time," Bowman added.

The commissioner said he has been working with Henry County Department of Transportation officials and officials at local fire stations for several weeks to determine how closing the road during construction would impact traffic. Bowman said traffic would be detoured around the construction site, along nearby streets.

"We've set up our detours, and how we would get around it," Bowman said. "I've worked with Fire Station No. 9 in Stockbridge, Fire Station No. 3 on Ga. Highway 42, Fire Station No. 8, on Flippen Road, and Fire Station No. 11, on Flatrock Road and Old Conyers. My biggest concern was making sure the citizens were not put in danger by having that closed, if they had to get somebody to the hospital."

Rock Quarry Road serves as an access route to Henry Medical Center from the north part of the county.

Interim Henry County Fire Chief Bill Lacy said response times to emergencies would be affected when Rock Quarry Road closes, but the fire department has worked out an alternate route.

"We'll use the re-alignment of Railroad Street to get through," said Lacy. "We already use that fairly frequently when we're transporting patients, because you never know if there will be a train there."

Bowman said alternate routes around the future construction site have been mapped out, and extra signage will be posted to alert drivers to the work.

Stockbridge Mayor Lee Stuart said the overpass will make it easier for traffic to pass through the area.

"Right now, people get hung up by the trains all the time. They've got to back up, and either go back around Ga. Highway 42 ... or come back up at Flippen Road," Stuart said.