DUBLIN — More than 20 years in the works, the $59.8 million Dublin bypass, which routes travelers from near Interstate 16 to U.S. 441 north of town, opened Tuesday afternoon.
The project is a nine-mile stretch that intersects with four state highways and 15 county roads. Construction began in summer 2007.
Planning started more than 20 years ago, but the project was delayed when the route was changed to avoid wetlands, according to George Brewer, preconstruction engineer with the Georgia Department of Transportation.
“There was a long delay,” said Laurens County Commissioner Emory Lake. “They had bought the right-of-ways and had to sell them back.”
Lake said the bypass should alleviate traffic congestion downtown and on Industrial Boulevard near Fairview Park Hospital.
Flashing signs had announced for more than a week that the new road would open Tuesday, warning motorists to prepare to stop at new stop signs and traffic lights. Tuesday morning, however, the signs said the bypass would be delayed another day, but by mid-afternoon they proclaimed the bypass open.
On U.S. 80, barricades were moved away, but a police car, construction truck and flag-waving workers kept cars from entering.
Moments after it finally opened, a pickup screeched to a halt at the new red light, narrowly avoiding a collision with a work truck.
According to the DOT, the contract with Newell Roadbuilders of Hope Hull, Ala., called for 206,589 tons of asphalt and the moving of 1.7 million cubic yards of dirt. Ten bridges were built along the route.
County officials plan to name the bypass the “Col. ‘Doc’ Clyde Stinson Perimeter.” Stinson was one of the highest ranking officers killed in the Vietnam War, said Laurens County Commissioner Buddy Adams.
While on his third tour of duty, Stinson was fatally wounded after loading three of his wounded men onto a helicopter, Adams said. Stinson was born and raised on Claxton Dairy Road, which intersects with the new roadway.
“The bypass went through the land they used to farm,” Adams said.
The Dublin bypass is the latest completed leg of a plan to four-lane U.S. 441 through Georgia, from North Carolina to Florida. Bypasses in Eatonton, Milledgeville and Irwinton are already complete.
DOT officials plan changes to one intersection for safety reasons. A review determined that eastbound motorists on Walke Dairy Road might not have “desirable” distance for “straight through” crossings, so traffic will be restricted by barricade until permanent islands are constructed.
The islands will allow left turns onto Walke Dairy Road but will restrict motorists traveling on that road from crossing the bypass.
To contact writer Rodney Manley, call 744-4623.