For more than two years, north Macon residents and others who tool along a stretch of Forest Hill Road have driven through construction zones while the huge road widening project grinds along.
During that period, the projected timeline for the end of major construction has been pushed back several times, frustrating plenty of people about the process.
The first targeted end date was July 2016. Then it moved to November 2016. But now Georgia Department of Transportation officials say the construction portion should conclude by the end of November, a month later than projections from this summer.
Some of the delays have been caused by issues such as sewer line relocation, and recent storms, including Irma, also took a toll. The contractor, R.J. Haynie & Associates, remains on track to meet the modified deadline, a DOT spokeswoman said in an email.
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The widening of Forest Hill, along with other improvements, will “alleviate some of the congestion on this heavily traveled roadway while adding safety to motorists and surrounding community,” the spokeswoman, Kimberly Larson, said.
The $9 million project includes the widening Forest Hill Road from a stretch about 650 feet south of Northside Drive to about 400 feet north of Wimbish Road. A turn lane was added, and sidewalks were installed on both sides of the road.
Construction has been completed on the Old Lundy/Lokchapee intersection,where new traffic signals are up. There’s also the addition of a “four-legged intersection” at the realignment of Newport Road, Forest Lake Drive South, Normandy Road and Glenn Hill Court.
Landscaping work, which includes new trees, pine straw mulching and a new irrigation system, is on track for finishing by the end of November.
“Paulk Landscaping says they can be done with the landscaping and irrigation by the end of next week,” Larson said. “As for the landscaping improvements, everything will be installed per the plans.”
Macon-Bibb County Commissioner Mallory Jones travels Forest Hill Road to get to work. He said it’s taken an “inordinate amount of time” to get the project completed, but that he’s witnessed major progress since DOT officials met with the County Commission in July.
Throughout the project, the sight of orange barrels, large piles of dirt being moved and other inconveniences of a typical construction project weren’t the only frustration some neighborhood residents said they felt. They mentioned problems such as overgrown rights of way and the sheer length of time it’s taken to get it finished.
But Jones said this week that he no longer receives the vast number of complaints that he did throughout much of the project.
“It’s well marked,” he said. “We have sidewalks. We have turn lanes and have a traffic light at Lockchapee. All of that is a big improvement.”
The project has faced several setbacks throughout the years. Several years ago, a citizens advocacy group had the DOT revisit the design after pointing out issues in the state’s traffic counts used to rationalize the widening.
But while the work on Forest Hill is winding down, another phase of work on the street from Wimbish to Forsyth Road is several years away from starting.
Conceptual designs presented in December 2016 included signal upgrades and a turn lane at Forsyth Road and Ridge Avenue, a new traffic signal at Charter Boulevard and sidewalks along Forest Hill Road.
A center two-way left turn lane could also be added, and a roundabout or traffic signal are options at the intersection of Wimbish and Forest Hill roads.
The County Commission approved the start of engineering and survey work for the project in October.