Bids accepted for Forest Hill Road, Fall Line Freeway work

Telegraph staffJanuary 2, 2013 

State officials have approved bids for a widening of Macon’s Forest Hill Road and completion of the long-planned Fall Line Freeway, the Georgia Department of Transportation announced Wednesday.

In addition to $58.3 million for the Fall Line Freeway work, the state announced a separate $17 million in transportation projects statewide, with half of that -- $8.4 million -- going to the first phase of Forest Hill Road work in Macon and Bibb County.

Low bidder R.J. Haynie & Associates Inc., of Lake City, was selected to work on the 1.75-mile stretch between Wimbish Road and Northside Drive. Bids from five other firms went as high as $11 million, according to a state announcement.

The bid award names seven subcontractors for clearing and hauling, asphalt, concrete work, signs and moving utilities. Detailed construction schedules have not been announced, but the estimated completion date is March 31, 2017.

The bid acceptance came despite a lawsuit from road activist Lindsay “Doc” Holliday, who filed a lawsuit Dec. 14, the same day a half-dozen bids for Forest Hill work were opened.

“I am wondering if they’ve informed that contractor that his job might melt away,” Holliday said Wednesday. If his lawsuit succeeds in stopping work, the state would still have to pay the contractor for whatever had been done to that point, he said.

Georgia DOT officials were told months ago they would face legal action if the project was put out to bid, Holliday said.

A state DOT representative did not immediately return calls seeking comment Wednesday.

Holliday’s two-page suit, filed without the help of a lawyer, seeks a restraining order against the department. He asks for road redesign, repaving as soon as possible and the addition of left-turn lanes added at the intersections of Forest Hill Road with Ridge Avenue and Wimbish Road.

The courts need to intervene before trees are cut down for the widening, the lawsuit says. Holliday argues the DOT plan would result in an unsafe road with long-lasting environmental damage.

It’s assigned to Bibb County Superior Court Judge Edgar Ennis, but the judge has been on vacation so no action is pending, Holliday said.

Holliday asked the group known as CAUTION Macon, or Citizens Against Unnecessary Thoroughfares In Our Neighborhoods, to help pay for expert testimony against the road design. Since his lawsuit was filed, CAUTION Macon has gotten “half a dozen checks,” but Holliday now says he isn’t sure they need any more evidence.

Several experts on road design submitted their objections in writing years ago, he said.

Voters approved work on Forest Hill Road in a sales-tax referendum more than 18 years ago, but debate soon broke out over the extent of the project. State officials pushed for the two-lane road to be widened to five lanes.

Now the just-awarded section is planned to have three lanes, but the second phase -- from Wimbish to Forsyth Road, scheduled for 2016 -- is slated for four.

Macon Councilman Tom Ellington, who has also asked the state to move cautiously on the roadwork, said while the three-lane section has problems, it’s really the second phase that would do the most damage.

“I’m disappointed that they haven’t revisited the design,” he said. “I think there are some compromises that could be made.”

Meanwhile, the state accepted the low bid of $58.3 million for another major road project affecting Middle Georgia.

The last piece of the long-planned Fall Line Freeway will be built south of Milledgeville in the next few years.

The Georgia DOT announced Wednesday it had accepted the low bid of $58.3 million from Balfour Beatty Infrastructure Inc. of Florida for the work.

The work covers 9.1 miles of the 215-mile freeway, to be built between Ga. 24 and U.S. 441 in Baldwin and Wilkinson counties. Workers expect to build eight bridges by Nov. 30, 2015.

Fourteen companies submitted bids, which topped out at $75 million, for the work.

The Fall Line Freeway connects Columbus, Macon and Augusta, typically with four-lane divided highways.

In a statement, State Transportation Board Chairman Johnny Floyd of Cordele said the completed project shows the value of the Governor’s Road Improvement Program.

“The purpose of GRIP -- to stimulate economic growth throughout the state -- has never been more important than it is today. The Fall Line Freeway and the other GRIP corridors will help Georgians in their daily lives and also help us sustain and grow Georgia’s economy,” according to a news release.

A board member from Milledgeville, former state Rep. Bobby Parham, said in the release that “to finally see it completed and witness its benefits to Middle Georgia will be wonderful.”

To contact writer Mike Stucka call 744-4251. To contact writer Jim Gaines call 744-4489.

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