I-75/Riverside work to begin this week, expected to take 3 years

Work is expected to begin this week on the $54.5 million overhaul of Interstate 75 from Pierce Avenue to Arkwright Road.

The project — the second-most-expensive transportation venture planned in Georgia this year — includes reconstructing and widening the stretch of interstate from four to six lanes, rebuilding and widening four bridges and overpasses, and replacing the troublesome southbound entrance and exit ramps near Pierce Avenue.

The work is expected to last almost three years. The completion date for the project is May 31, 2013, said Georgia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Kimberly Larson.

Crews from Prince Contracting, a Florida company, will begin grading work and installing erosion-control fences on I-75 on Tuesday, Larson said.

“They should have the barrels out there,” she said. “They’re just waiting to get started once they get their equipment up here.”

Riverside Drive also will be impacted, as plans call for the thoroughfare to be widened to seven lanes at the new on- and off-ramps, which will start and end at the Riverstreet Corners shopping center.

No immediate traffic delays are expected, but the work eventually could send more motorists to Riverside.

“As with any project, lane closures and delays can be expected,” Larson said. “As the project progresses, we anticipate motorists will be trying to use State Route 87 (Riverside Drive) to avoid any delays on the interstate, so it stands to reason there will be delays on State Route 87.”

Ann Johnson of Bonaire takes I-75 on her daily commute to work at Dick’s Sporting Goods at The Shoppes at River Crossing. The drive takes her about 35 to 40 minutes, she said, “depending on the time of day.”

That might change as work on the project moves forward. As the new on- and off-ramps and lanes are built, southbound motorists will be shifted into the existing northbound lanes, which will be expanded on its shoulders. A retaining wall be erected to separate traffic.

“I’d definitely have to find another route,” Johnson said.

The only planned detour will come when workers take down and rebuild the Riverview Road Bridge over the interstate. Motorists will be asked to use Red Oak Drive or North Pierce Avenue instead.

Plans also call for work that will affect Riverside Drive. The street will be expanded to seven lanes at the new I-75 South exit and entrance, and several side roads will be upgraded at their intersections with Riverside.

Also, North Pierce Avenue will be shifted north as the overpass and ramps there are reconstructed.

The work from Pierce Avenue to Arkwright Road is paving the way for the proposed reconfiguration of the I-16/I-75 interchange. Larson said the added lanes will help handle traffic volume once the I-16/I-75 work gets under way.

That project is not scheduled to begin until 2018, but Larson said that date is subject to change according to budget and funding constraints. The latest price tag assigned to that project is $320 million.

The I-75 Pierce to Arkwright work will be funded through the federal stimulus program. During early planning phases, construction costs were estimated as high as almost $90 million.

The project has met public opposition, as some residents and local transportation officials said the project caught them off guard.

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 in and out of Lee Road.

To contact writer Rodney Manley, call 744-4623.

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