The timing couldn't be worse: Just as motorists found an alternative to the construction-snarled Furys Ferry Road, county workers moved in and shut down Stevens Creek Road for a five-month bridge project.
Stevens Creek Road is closed as work begins on the bridge over Reed Creek.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
"What idiot was responsible for that?" asked Chris Noah of Evans, who commutes through the area for his job at Savannah River Site, and like other motorists faced bumper-to-bumper, rush-hour traffic on Furys Ferry when Stevens Creek closed Tuesday.
Guilty as charged, said Sherry Mendrick, project manager for the Stevens Creek project. "Yes, that would be me - I've been asked that four times today," Mendrick said Wednesday.
Mendrick said the county had no choice but to start work on Stevens Creek. A $4.2 million federal hazard mitigation grant funding the project was scheduled to run out at the end of the year.
"The county waited as long as they could," explained Columbia County's director of construction and maintenance, Kevin Lear. "We thought Furys Ferry would be done by now."
It should have been, said Gary Pulliam, the Furys Ferry Road project manager for the Georgia Department of Transportation. The project is supposed to be completed July 25 - "but it won't be anywhere near finished," Pulliam said. "You're looking at about another year."
To make matters worse, the Furys Ferry construction project "is going to close down the entrance to West Lake on Furys Ferry Road at some point in the future," said county engineer Jim Leiper. "They're talking like six or seven months from now. Since our time frame is about five months (for the Stevens Creek work), it's important that we get the project done."
The Stevens Creek project will increase the size of pipes under the road and raise the roadbed about seven feet. Work is being conducted by Lewis Trucking and Grading Inc. of Lithonia, Ga.
While the slow pace of Furys Ferry construction is inconvenient for Columbia County commuters, it's expensive for Reeves Construction Co., which is under contract with the DOT to widen Furys Ferry Road from River Watch Parkway to Blackstone Camp Road.
Fighting rainy conditions and other setbacks, the company missed an August 2003 deadline for completing the section from Baston Road to River Watch Parkway. That's costing the company $1,000 per day in penalties from the DOT, Pulliam said.
After July 26, the DOT will add a penalty of $600 for each day the rest of the route is delayed, Pulliam said. The penalty has already hit $300,000 on the $9.6 million project.
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