Progress made on freeway between Macon, Augusta

Road contractors have made significant progress this summer on two Wilkinson County portions of the Fall Line Freeway, a route connecting Columbus and Augusta through Macon.

Once these portions are finished, there are only three more sections to construct before the route connects Macon and Augusta, said Kraig Collins, area engineer for the Georgia Department of Transportation.

Those portions are in Baldwin and Washington counties and are not funded in the state’s four-year transportation plan, said Cissy McNure, the DOT district communications officer for Wilkinson County.

She noted that a potential source of funding for these and other projects will be voted on in the Nov. 2 election, which includes a constitutional amendment question that would allow the DOT to enter into multiyear construction agreements to reduce the state’s long-term construction costs.

But even after Macon and Augusta are connected, the Fall Line Freeway will remain unfinished until the section crossing Macon is resolved.

Originally, the DOT planned for that section to be the Eisenhower Parkway extension. But because of complications involving crossing the Traditional Cultural Property of the Muscogee Indians and potential environmental effects on the swamps south of Macon, about five years ago the Eisenhower Extension was reclassified as a local project that is not part of the Fall Line Freeway.

Recently, some local leaders have voiced support for a Ga. 96/Sgoda Road route, which would pass south of the city.

But Kimberly Larson, the DOT district communications officer for the Macon area, said that route is not being considered by the DOT as part of the freeway. She said the DOT is stalled on how to get the freeway across Macon and has no preferred route.

The new Fall Line Freeway sections in Wilkinson County require building new roads between existing parts of the route. From Ga. 57 near the Wilkinson County line, the route will extend on a new road bed north of Gordon until it intersects Ga. 243 west of Ivey.

Collins said Prince Contracting LLC has cleared trees from 95 percent of the new roadway and made significant progress in building up the road bed. The contractor is now grading between Old Macon Road and Ga. 18, Collins said.

The $30 million contract is scheduled to conclude in about two years. Although it’s slightly behind schedule, the contractor planned to finish about seven months ahead of time, so it should still meet its original timeline, Collins said.

He said he expects the rock base to be laid on several sections before the end of the construction season.

The second Fall Line Freeway section under construction is due to be finished sooner, in March 2011. It will run from Ivey along the route of Ga. 243 until turning to connect with U.S. 441.

Collins said the project was originally bid at $39 million, but change orders from contractor E.R. Snell have driven up the cost to about $44 million.

To contact writer Heather Duncan, call 744-4225.