Mike Padgett construction bringing temporary headaches, long-term changes

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Monday, Feb. 5, 2018
(News 12 NBC 26 News At 11)

BURKE COUNTY, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) -- A section of Mike Padgett Highway is closed as crews replace damaged drains and expand the road to four lanes. But the construction is already a headache for neighbors and the nearly seven thousand commuters who take that road every day.

Crews shut down and started cutting up parts of the road, digging out where those extra lanes will go and loading new drainage pipes near the site. Officials say a section of that road is already starting to sink and crack making this a necessary fix.

GDOT officials say, "The work is part of the $4.817 million construction award for Phase I widening of SR 56 to a four-lane highway and is funded entirely by the Transportation Investment Act. The 1.35-mile widening is expected to reduce the crash rates, while improving capacity."

During the construction, vehicles traveling in both directions on Highway 56 will be detoured onto State Road 80 (Collins Road) and River Road, adding to heavy traffic from Plant Vogtle. But people living nearby say they've wanted these changes for years, but hope the next two weeks fly by and construction comes to a quick end.

Micheal and Jen Callison live about half a mile from a stretch of Highway 56, but they'll still be able to hear every bit of construction for the next two weeks. They're not happy with the shape of the road they've driven for years and they're ready for change.

"You know, not everybody is paying attention and it's dangerous to be stopped in the middle of the road trying to turn onto your road," Callison says, "especially coming up on that hill when people are going way over the speed limit."

Kyle Collins with GDOT says this work along Highway 56 is just step one of three and part of a 24 million dollar facelift for a road showing its age in cracks and holes. It's in addition to a 4.4 million dollar truck bypass west of Waynesboro and other resurfacing projects in the pipeline and progress is slowly taking shape around the county.

"We're probably doing more work than we have in now than we have in several decades," Collins says. "It's annoying to run into all these cones, it seems like everywhere you turn there's a lot of work, but that's also a positive because that's your tax dollars at work."

A positive change and a necessity, he says, for major roads needed in disaster situations and evacuations. Highways 25 and 56 were used heavily to assist evacuees from coastal Georgia and South Carolina counties during each of the past two hurricane seasons.

"Folks coming up from Florida or coming up from the coast recently with Irma, for example, a lot of these routes were utilized for folks to get to shelters and get out of there," Collins says. "So routes like this are given a higher priority because of things like that."

As for Micheal and Jen, they'll just be glad when the traffic moves away.

"Not only the Plant Vogtle traffic is going to be coming down here, [but] everybody from Waynesboro that has to come to Augusta is going to be coming down this road. It could be like, it's a good thing but it's also a bad thing."

This phase of the project is expected to be done by June of 2019. GDOT does not have a specific timeframe for when phase two will start after that, but the entire project is expected to be done by 2022.

A press release adds more information for drivers who commute through that area. It reads, "With support from Georgia Power and the Burke County Sheriff’s Office, additional traffic officers will be patrolling the detour area during peak travel times (from 3 to 7 a.m. and from 3 to 7 p.m.) to discourage speeding and reckless driving. A traffic audit conducted by the sheriff’s office over two weekdays in January found that almost 3,000 vehicles travel River Road between 3 a.m. and 6 p.m. daily and 82 percent of vehicles are driving more than 10 miles per hour over the speed limit."

The release states, "A sheriff’s office deputy said citations, not warnings, will be issued to all drivers stopped for speeding." Deputies will also be stationed next to the detours next to Collins Road and River Road to make sure no one passes through the barricades, although people living inside the construction zone will still be allowed access to pass through during the next two weeks.