I-75 project pushed back again

The massive reconstruction of Interstate 75 from Pierce Avenue to Arkwright Road has been pushed back again.

The project — which includes widening 2.5 miles of the interstate to six lanes, rebuilding several bridges and replacing the southbound entrance and exit ramps near Pierce Avenue — is now expected to be put out for bid sometime before the fiscal year ends June 30, according to the Georgia Department of Transportation.

DOT officials initially had said the work would begin this past summer. In July, the targeted start of construction was said to be sometime this fall.

Instead, the work was put on the back burner while other projects were pushed through to qualify for federal stimulus money, DOT spokeswoman Crystal Paulk-Buchanan said.

“That has been a priority,” she said.

The work had been included in a DOT list of summer construction projects that were expected to impact interstate motorists. That list showed the project as having an estimated “contract amount” of $77.9 million. It also had been on a list of projects eligible for stimulus funding.

“The project is ready to go. We just have to get the funding in line for it,” Paulk-Buchanan said.

Now, most of the funding is expected to come through a usual match of federal and state money, with the state contributing probably about 20 percent.

“The right of way has been purchased. The plan is done. The design is done. Everything’s ready to go,” Paulk-Buchanan said. “It’s just a matter of, are the dollars there?”

The work also would impact Riverside Drive, as plans call for the heavily traveled thoroughfare to be widened to seven lanes at the new on and off ramps.

There also will be some upgrades at intersections with some side roads.

The project has met some public opposition. Some residents and local transportation officials — including Larry Walker, former vice chairman of the state transportation board — said the project caught them by surprise.

After a series of meetings organized by residents, the DOT held a public information open house in May and received 71 official comments about the work.

Residents were able to win some concessions, including additional noise barriers along the northbound lanes of the interstate and a change in the plans to allow left turns into and out of Lee Road.

A layout of the project’s design is available for public view at the local DOT office at 4499 Riverside Drive in Macon.

To contact writer Rodney Manley, call 744-4623.