Crews will begin intermittent blocking of Mars Hill Road on Thursday, the first time such action has been taken on the roadway since construction work began on the widening project last November.
Weather permitting, dump trucks will begin hauling dirt across Mars Hill Road between Hodges Mill Road and Riverhaven Lane sometime after 9 a.m. Thursday, according to a news release sent out late this afternoon by the Northeast Georgia office of the state Department of Transportation.
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During that time, traffic will move freely through the area until a dump truck is ready to cross the road. At that point, traffic will be stopped to allow the truck to cross.
On Mondays through Thursdays, flagging and lane closures can occur only from 9 a.m to 4 p.m.
Flagging and road closures can occur from 7 p.m. on Fridays until 6 a.m. on Mondays, but the flagging and intermittent closings scheduled for next weekend will occur only during daylight hours, according to the release.
The scheduled work at Hodges Mill Road and Riverhaven Lane cannot occur during rain or when the ground is saturated, according to the news release.
The current AccuWeather forecast is for rain on Friday, possibly causing a delay in the work.
The Mars Hill Road intersection with Hodges Mill Road is just south of where Mars Hill Road crosses Barber Creek.
The new road in that area will be elevated from its current location, and two new bridges will be built to carry the road across the creek.
Much of the movement of dirt for the project that has taken place so far has been in the section from SR 316 to the bridge.
Work on the Mars Hill Road widening is scheduled to continue through the end of March of 2018.
G.P.’s Enterprises of Auburn, Ga., has the $26.3 million contract for the 3.3-mile-long project, which runs from SR 316 to Hog Mountain Road at Butler’s Crossing.
When completed, the new road will have four lanes that are 12 feet wide and a 20-feet-wide grassy median. It will also have bike lanes and sidewalks in each direction.
This part of the project is termed Phase I. The purchase of right of way is underway for the second phase, which encompasses Experiment Station Road from Butler’s Crossing to the U.S. 441 bypass.
Standard Line In News Release
The news release about the intermittent road closings was distributed via email this afternoon by Teri Pope, communications officer from the Northeast Georgia district of the Department of Transportation.
As in the past, Pope stated that the project will improve “mobility locally in Watkinsville and for the region in to and out of Clarke County.”
I exchanged email messages with Oconee County Public Works Director Emil Beshara on another matter this morning--before Pope issued her release--and asked him about that description of the project.
The third phase of the widening project is to end in downtown Watkinsville on Main Street, and I asked how this could be described as benefitting the flow of traffic into and out of Clarke County.
Beshara said that there is a project with the regional transportation planning group MACORTS (Madison Athens-Clarke Oconee Regional Transportation Study) that would create a new, circular connection from the intersection of the widened Experiment Station Road and Main Street to Simonton Bridge Road.
Beshara labeled that project “a pipe dream” because of its expense. The loop is entirely within Watkinsville city limits, Beshara said, making it a city rather than county project.
MACORTS also has on its project list the widening of Simonton Bridge Road from Watkinsville to the Clarke County line at the Middle Oconee River.
At that point, the roadway becomes Whitehall Road, which then becomes Barnett Shoals Road and then Gaines School Road and connects with Lexington Road, or U.S. 78.
Such an improved route would allow traffic to move from U.S. 78 on Athens’ east side to SR 316 without using SR Loop 10.
Athens-Clarke County plans to close Whitehall Road this summer to make major improvements to that roadway at its intersection with South Milledge Avenue.