Prep work starts on widening Forest Hill Road

State urges caution in high-traffic work zone

jgaines@macon.comMarch 24, 2014 

  • See how a log feller is speeding up the road work on Forest Hill Road. Video by Woody Marshall

Work is finally underway to widen Forest Hill Road.

After long delays, mostly related to legal opposition, crews were busy on the roadside Monday, with one lane blocked on part of the stretch between Northside Drive and Wimbish Road. Orange barrels sat along the entire two-mile course of the planned work.

Crews began clearing trees Monday, said Kimberly Larson, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Transportation.

“Probably for about the next month, they will be clearing back the right-of-way so the utilities can get in there and start moving lines,” she said.

She urged drivers to be cautious, watching for flagmen and slowing down for workers and equipment.

But the road won’t be blocked all day every day, Larson said. Workers are avoiding the hours of heaviest traffic.

“They can only have lane closures out on that project from between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., and then again after 6 p.m.,” she said.

As the ground is cleared, utility companies will follow closely behind, Larson said. Some companies have already started work on easily accessible utilities, but some current above-ground utility lines will be buried, she said.

The project will widen Forest Hill Road from Wimbish Road to Northside Drive, adding a central turn lane and 5-foot sidewalks on both sides. The plan also includes the realigning of Old Lundy Road across from Lokchapee Drive, and a “four-legged intersection will be created with the realignment of Newport Road, Forest Lake Drive South, Normandy Road and Glenn Hill Court,” Larson said.

The original notice to proceed, issued in February 2013, called for work to be done by March 2017. But despite the legal hangup, the project’s completion is expected by July 31, 2016.

Contractor R.J. Haynie & Associates of Lake City got the contract in December 2012 with an $8.4 million bid. Construction signs went up more than a year ago, but spent most of that time draped in black plastic as a lawsuit opposing the project worked through the courts.

The lawsuit, filed by area resident Lindsay “Doc” Holliday, argued that the Georgia Department of Transportation’s design was more dangerous than one he preferred. He also said it would destroy the road’s tree canopy and pollute its streams. But Holliday lost his case and, short of money, didn’t appeal by a November 2013 deadline.

At that time, Haynie project manager Mark Spence said tree clearance might start in December.

But that date passed as the state reviewed the delay’s financial impact on contractors.

That review apparently didn’t produce any major changes, Larson said.

“Their bid of $8.4 (million) was still good,” she said.

The Northside-to-Wimbish stretch isn’t the only part of Forest Hill Road slated for eventual widening. The half-mile section from Wimbish to its intersection with Vineville Avenue and Forsyth Road is to be expanded to four lanes. But that work, already planned to be a later phase, is on hold indefinitely.

At a Feb. 5 policy meeting of the Macon Area Transportation Study group, Jack Reed, GDOT district planning and programming engineer, said the project schedule for Forest Hill Road work from Forsyth to Wimbish has been “removed” from the immediate project list, with no current activity.

The project spreadsheet he presented now lists approved right-of-way funding for fiscal 2018, and construction funding for fiscal 2020.

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