Bass Road widening funds approved, but project will take years to complete

The Macon-Bibb Commission is moving forward with widening Bass Road at Interstate 75, but motorists won’t see relief for years.

The project is estimated to cost $35 million, with most of that paid by state and federal funds.

It would widen a mile of the road to four lanes from Providence Boulevard to New Forsyth Road, roughly centered by the interstate.

The project has been discussed for years amid growth in the area and increasing traffic congestion. Among additions to the area are Bass Pro Shops and the recently opened North Macon Plaza at Starcadia Circle.

The stretch of road handles about 900 cars an hour during peak times, based on 2018 data, which was gathered before much of the latest retail development took place.

The project would also include replacement of the I-75 bridge and the bridge over Beaver Dam Creek.

Macon-Bibb is committing $5.4 million to the project with the rest coming from the Georgia Department of Transportation. The county’s portion comes from the special purpose local option sales tax and would pay the projected cost of right-of-way acquisition.

The Macon-Bibb Commission on Tuesday approved an agreement with the DOT that spells out the funding and schedule for the project.

The schedule calls for planning and engineering to take place in 2020, then right-of-way acquisition would take four years. Construction is projected to take place in 2026.

Although completion is still years away, people who work in the area said they are excited that it is going forward.

Madison Stark works at Welch’s Meats and Country Smokehouse on Bass Road, about a half a mile from the interstate.

“We’ve had customers come in saying they got off the interstate and they would have to wait 30 minutes to turn in here,” she said.

Stark said traffic is at its worse when the Academy for Classical Education, or ACE, is opening in the morning and letting out in the afternoon.

ACE, a charter school, opened in 2014 on New Forsyth Road near Bass Road.

Jake Williams, who works at Cell Phone Repair, said he has seen traffic increase significantly in the area in the four years he has been working there.

“When I first started, it would get a little backed up but it was never anything to get too concerned about,” he said. “You could get to wherever you are going. Now, whenever ACE lets out, you can’t get anywhere. When you look out the window, there is just cars as far as you can see in both directions.”

He said in the time he has worked in the area, a Waffle House and Burger King have opened nearby, as well as the new shopping center.

A DOT traffic count at Starcadia Circle puts the average daily traffic in the area at about 10,600 vehicles per day, and that was in 2018, before the new shopping center opened. At the peak hours, which are around lunch and at about 4 p.m., the road sees about 900 cars an hour.

On the opposite side of the interstate, the 2018 traffic count showed an average daily traffic count of 13,100 vehicles.

Penny Brooks, spokeswoman for DOT, said the long time-frame to complete the project, particularly four years for right-of-way acquisition, is not unusual for a project of that kind of complexity.

Wayne Crenshaw has worked as a journalist since 1990 and has been a reporter for The Telegraph since 2002. He holds a bachelor’s degree in print journalism from Georgia College and is a resident of Warner Robins.