Construction of an improved Jeffersonville Road, in the works for 20 years, will be pushed back one more fiscal year, according to the latest draft of the local transportation improvement plan.
Work had been anticipated to start in fiscal 2015, the current fiscal year. But now the plan calls for the $10.6 million in work on two sections of the road, a bridge and a railroad crossing to be moved into the next fiscal year, which starts July 1, said Jim Thomas, executive director for the Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission.
The Macon Area Transportation Study group’s policy committee discussed revisions to the transportation plan in a meeting Wednesday morning.
Macon-Bibb County Commissioner Al Tillman said plans for Jeffersonville Road work date back at least to the 1994 special purpose local option sales tax. With so many years to prepare, he wondered why there would be further delays.
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Mayor Robert Reichert said project costs changed as time went on, necessitating new agreements between state and local governments. Now the Macon-Bibb government is buying the needed land, and the state will reimburse the purchase price but not legal fees.
Bibb County Engineer David Fortson said it took time to work out a number of environmental issues related to the stream and railroad crossing.
Jack Reed from the Georgia Department of Transportation said Macon-Bibb officials have received permission to buy up right of way for the road, which is going on now.
Several residents and regular users of Jeffersonville Road were disappointed but not surprised to hear Wednesday afternoon about the delay.
“They really need to hurry up,” said Demetria Bell, who has lived on Jeffersonville Road 13 years. “If the money’s in place, what else could be the holdup?”
She had heard of plans to widen the road but didn’t know the intended schedule. Bell, standing outside the Jim Food Mart at the corner of Jeffersonville and Millerfield roads, was unimpressed with the recent coating of asphalt the intersection received. She’s seen such temporary fixes repeatedly, but the length of the road needs sidewalks and lighting, she said.
“We’ve got handicapped people riding down through here in the middle of the street,” Bell said. “Something needs to be done.”
Disareay Masterman, a 12-year resident of the road, agreed that it needs safety improvements.
“Not too long ago, there was an accident right there,” she said, pointing to the Jeffersonville-Millerfield intersection.
A wider, smoother road should be good for the convenience store’s business but will force Masterman to move, she said.
“They’re going to take out my house,” Masterman said. Her landlord has told her that the state is offering relocation compensation as right of way is purchased, she said.
Chris Smith, who has lived on a side street near Jeffersonville Road for two years, said he wasn’t familiar with work plans and that they don’t really matter to him. But he acknowledged that work is warranted, though replacing the narrow bridge over Walnut Creek will be difficult, Smith said.
“It gets a little bumpy down by the bridge,” he said.
In addition to the Jeffersonville Road delay, the Transportation Improvement Program draft plan also includes sooner right of way acquisition and construction on Sardis Church Road, widening it from Interstate 75 to Ga. 247, and connecting the two north-south arteries through Avondale Mill Road. It was scheduled for fiscal 2016 but is to be moved into the current fiscal year.
“That project is ready to go to bid,” Thomas said. The $51 million project is intended to improve the Middle Georgia Regional Airport’s highway access.
The Sardis Church Road project originally was supposed to be bid out last year, but it was held up by a dispute with Georgia Power over who would pay for moving utility lines, Reichert said. That has been worked out, with the power company paying for line relocation for new road construction, he said. Line relocation cost for the Sardis Church project has been estimated at $1.6 million.
James Webb, chairman of the MATS Citizen Advisory Committee, said he couldn’t approve a plan that moves back long-awaited Jeffersonville Road work while speeding up work on Sardis Church Road. He cast the only vote against the draft plan.
To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.