Randy Stamey, (from left) Warren Holder, Roque Romero, Terry McMickle, Tracey Yates, Butch Oliver, and Tommy Dobson, throw the ceremonial first shovels of dirt at a groundbreaking ceremony for intersection improvements to Ga. Highway 81 and Keys Ferry Road.
By Valerie Baldowski
Henry County officials have broken ground on planned highway improvements for Ga. Highway 81 at Keys Ferry Road. The $1.3 million project is designed to alleviate traffic tie-ups, during rush-hour commuting times.
"Improvements to Keys Ferry and Highway 81 will increase safety for our citizens," said Commission Chairman Elizabeth "B.J." Mathis. "We try to choose Special Local Option Sales Tax transportation projects that address safety issues."
The work will involve adding turn lanes to both roads, and installing a traffic signal, said Henry Commissioner Warren Holder. The work is needed, because of the high volume of traffic passing through the area, he said.
"It's because of the safety of the intersection," he added. "It backs up one-half to one mile in the mornings, with people trying to get onto Highway 81."
Highway 81 is a main artery for drivers in Henry County, Holder continued. The improvements are expected to alleviate traffic congestion at the intersection, which sees approximately 22,000 cars every day, he said.
"Keys Ferry is highly residential -- and developed," Holder said. "With all the traffic on 81, it's become almost impossible, and very hazardous, for anyone to make a left turn to access Highway 81 from Keys Ferry. This intersection improvement, with turn lanes and signalization, should certainly benefit the people from this end of the county."
The Henry County Board of Commissioners, and officials with the county's Special Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) Department, held a groundbreaking ceremony on Jan. 19 to kick off the intersection improvements.
The county budgeted $1.3 million for the project, but the work is expected to come in under budget, according to Roque Romero, transportation manager for Henry County's SPLOST department. Henry was awarded $536,929.19 in federal stimulus funds, for the project, according to Romero. That money will cover all of the construction costs, he said.
Money for the project's design, and right-of-way, phases -- $184,000 -- will be drawn from SPLOST funds, said Romero, and the county will be reimbursed as the work progresses. "As the contractor does the work, we'll invoice the Georgia Department of Transportation and get the money back," he said.
"We've got some barrels out there, and weather permitting, they'll start construction on Monday," Romero added.
Holder said the construction will be done by Conyers-based Pittman Construction Company. He said that, since the intersection is a designated SPLOST project, the influx of stimulus dollars will help stretch the county's SPLOST dollars even more.