Construction on Mike Padgett could lower fatality numbers

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News 12 at 6 O'clock / Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- Crews have been prepping to expand Mike Padgett Highway to make it easier and safer to drive.

"It was a buffer between me and the road." said Wayne Brown. "And it still is."

That extra cushion always felt nice for Wayne, who's lived off Mike Padgett Highway for 20 years. He's seen dozens of accidents turn fatal in seconds.

"Couple of weeks ago, there was an accident right in front of my house," Brown said.

But over the last day, things have slowed down a lot. Orange is everywhere and construction workers are scattered all over.

"It's the construction that's going to be the hard part," he said.

Brown stands behind what's now the edge of his yard. Tree stumps and debris littered between him and the road.

"Almost a quarter of an acre, it was 65 feet off my front yard," Brown said.

A center median with left-turn lanes and high shoulders would be added, in exchange for his land.

The hope is for these improvements to reduce car wrecks and traffic fatalities. Last year, there for five fatalities and almost a dozen injuries on the highway.

"It's a dangerous, dangerous road, it's about time they did something about it," Brown said.

Other business owners like Chris Kuneman said, "I was aware that they would possibly expand Mike Padgett Highway."

His business is one of the lucky ones. Two businesses down from his got completely eaten up by the expansion, but the project spared most of his front parking at the Rack and Grill II.

"I've lost about 10 feet of parking space," he said.

Which he'll have to make up, by building more parking in the back. But all of the construction could slow business down.

"Talked with the project engineer from the DOT and he has assured me that he will be able to keep us open, keep the road clear," Kuneman said.

That's the hope for everyone while crews look at making Mike Padgett a safer place.

The expected price tag for the construction is around $30.4 million. That doesn't include the millions that have already been spent on engineering and buying land from homeowners and businesses.

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