The long-planned Jeffersonville Road widening has reached another roadblock.
The latest setback stems from the cost of moving utility lines. Macon-Bibb County leaders are now looking at finding another source of funding or reaching a compromise with the state transportation department and Georgia Power that would reduce some of the costs.
The Jeffersonville Road project has been about 20-plus years in the making, dating back to the 1990s when a special road tax went into effect. And finally in 2016, some major headway appeared to have been made as Macon-Bibb leaders eyed 2017 for the start of construction.
But since then, utility relocation costs for the county’s portion has dramatically risen, Mayor Robert Reichert said last week.
The first phase would widen Jeffersonville Road from Emery Highway to Recreation Road. Once completed, the enhanced Jeffersonville Road will be able to better handle more traffic and with a new sidewalk and multiuse path safety will also be improved.
Rough stretches of Jeffersonville will also be freshly paved and the Walnut Creek bridge will be repaired.
It’s unlikely the county can afford to cover costs needed to move the transmission lines. Money for road improvements in the 2018 special purpose local option sales tax is tied up with other projects, he said.
“The only possible place we can find that money is out of the SPLOST roads program money, most of which, if not all, is spoken for,” Reichert said.
The county continues to be in contact with Georgia Power and the Georgia Department of Transportation to find a solution that could get the project started, Macon-Bibb officials said.
Although construction has yet to begin, an array of other work has been completed to get to this point. There were environmental measures such as making sure the creek was not distributed, completing designs, right-of-way acquisition and incorporating pedestrian friendly aspects such as lighting and sidewalks, Macon-Bibb County Commissioner Elaine Lucas said.
She says she’s hopeful construction can begin in the next few months. There remains a concerted effort from Macon-Bibb officials as well as state legislators such as Rep. James Beverly and Sen. David Lucas to get the construction underway, Lucas said.
There are many residents wanting to know how they can help spur the project along, she said.
“It’s frustrating when you’re working hard and you think a project is about to take off and people are about to have some relief and you hit another snag,” Lucas said. “We owe it to the folks who live on the east side who have been very, very patient to get this going.”
Macon-Bibb also has an agreement with Georgia Power which outlines how the utility company pays for relocating power lines.
The agreement, however, “doesn’t cover a transmission line, these big tall structures that run power across the country,” Reichert said last week.
“Unfortunately, we have a transmission line that crosses over Jeffersonville Road,” he said.
The county is waiting to hear from Georgia Power about the exact cost would be for moving the distribution lines, County Engineer David Fortson said in an email.
But it could be as much as $1.7 million to move those poles off the right-of-way, he said.
Transmission lines are located by the Walnut Creek bridge, which needs to be raised a certain number of feet to get it out of the flood plain.
“We are trying to see if there is a way to reduce that cost, either through alternative bidding methods, alternative construction methods, or negotiated reductions from Georgia Power,” Fortson said.
The second phase of Jeffersonville Road would include improvements from Recreation Road to U.S. 80. A railroad line crossing the Lakeside Reservoir Dam would need to be moved.
“It’s going to have all manner of environmental issues and concerns and problems to get that done,” Reichert said.