A year into a $54.5 million effort to widen Interstate 75 in Macon, state officials say the project is on schedule and on budget, although many of the biggest changes are still to come.
About 3.3 miles of I-75 is being widened from four to six lanes, with new interchanges and ramps at Arkwright Road and Pierce Avenue. Also included are Riverside Drive and interstate bridge widening, as well as a new route for North Pierce Avenue.
Close to 40 percent of the project is done, said Kimberly Larson, a Department of Transportation district communications officer. Among that work: utility relocations, some bridge widening and the North Pierce shift.
Only concrete topping and curb and gutter work remain to finish North Pierce, Larson said. One side of an adjacent interstate bridge has been completed, and workers have begun widening the bridge for the new outside lane.
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The Arkwright Road bridge has been widened, and construction will soon begin on the new Arkwright exits. Those ramps will be built at night. The existing ramps will remain open until the new ones are complete, so the work should not affect traffic, Larson said.
The new Arkwright and Pierce ramps are slated to open to traffic sometime during February or March 2012.
Riverview bridge to reopen
The Riverview Road bridge was scheduled to be closed for a year, until the end of November. But work there is slightly ahead of schedule, so it could reopen earlier that month, Larson said.
She said the DOT has fielded few complaints from residents of the Riverview community, who had to give up one of the three entrances to the neighborhood for a year.
“We got calls about the (barrier wall to reduce noise) when the trees came down, but we haven’t heard much since,” she said. “People aren’t grumbling about the impact of construction on them.”
Houses there that border the interstate used to have a wide, tree-covered slope as a buffer, but now backyards are exposed. The house closest to the Riverview bridge went up for sale, and the house closest to the Pierce Avenue interstate bridge has been available for rent for many months.
But neighborhood residents reached by The Telegraph say the bridge closure and road noise haven’t been a nuisance.
Nasha Jones, who lives next to one of the construction rights-of-way where large trucks access the work site near Pierce Avenue, said it’s sometimes hard to get in and out of her driveway, and she hears banging every evening from the construction work. But generally none of it has been much of a problem for her family, she said.
Larson said drivers will next see new asphalt on portions of Riverside Drive leading up to Riverview Road. Already, curb and gutter work on Riverside Drive has been causing half-mile lane closures. Additional lane closures will start in a few weeks as workers build up asphalt to meet the height of the new Riverview bridge.
The paving will generally take place between 9 p.m. and 5 or 6 a.m. and possibly during the day on some weekends, she said.
A barrier wall is planned between the Riverview neighborhood and the interstate. Larson said contractors have begun the process at Pierce Avenue and at Arkwright Road near the Outback restaurant. She said that will continue slowly as pieces of the wall are ready.
In the next few weeks a traffic shift, but no lane closures, will begin on I-75 as concrete rehabilitation work is done on the northbound outside lane.
Preparation has begun for the main widening work on I-75, Larson said. Asphalt paving of the new lanes will start in February or March, with final topping slated for April 2013. I-75 paving will start at Arkwright and work south to Pierce, then loop back to Arkwright on the northbound side.
Larson said workers have completed about half the drainage work on Riverside Drive and Arkwright Road and about 70 percent of the drainage work on I-75.
The project borders several waterways, but it has not been plagued with the erosion violations seen at some other DOT work sites in Middle Georgia in recent years.
However, the state Environmental Protection Division sent a “noncompliance document” to DOT on July 7 because of minor erosion problems at the work site, EPD communications chief Kevin Chambers said in an e-mail. An inspector noticed turbid water entering Savage Branch where a new culvert is being added on I-75 south of the intersection of Pierce Avenue and Riverside Drive.
DOT reports that it has fixed the problem, and the EPD will soon conduct a follow-up inspection, Chambers wrote.
To contact writer S. Heather Duncan, call 744-4225.