After 20 years of delays, it appears that the last leg of the Old Alabama Road project is finally on the verge of seeing construction.
Cartersville-Bartow County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) Transportation Planner Tom Sills announced that the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) has requested that May 2020 be set as the let date — when construction bids are allowed to be opened — for the last 5.5 miles of the project.
“It’ll consist of a new alignment from State Route 113 over to State Route 61, and from that point take Old Alabama Road as it currently exists and making it four lanes going all the way from basically the airport out to Paga Mine Road, where it will tie into the existing four-lane there,” Sills said.
The last leg of the project also calls for some major infrastructural changes near the local airport.
“There will be a cut in place there at the airport where they will have to lower the road by about 30 feet to give the airport enough room for clear zone, to be able to make use of the full length of the runway they’ve got there,” Sills added.
While County officials have sought to wrap up the construction in multiple phases for the better part of a year, Sills said GDOT is now looking to finish up the entirety of the project in just one phase.
“If they let it in May, typically they’ll be under construction in six months,” he said. “The completion date’s going to be sometime in 2023.”
The total project, Sills said, is likely to come in at well over $90 million.
“I believe we have it set up for like a $79.8 million construction contract and another $14 million for utility relocation,” he said. “In this case, it’s federal aid money at 80% and the State’s paying 20% through the House Bill 170 money.”
As for the big breakthrough with GDOT, Sills said Bartow is simply benefiting from another municipality dropping the proverbial ball with their own proposed transportation project.
“GDOT has a budget every year and they schedule projects well in advance,” he said. “As happens from time to time, projects fail to meet their schedule so there’s funding that’s still available that’s appropriated for that year, so we’re the beneficiaries of being able to take advantage of having the project ready to go within the fiscal year, to take up the slack of another area that could not get their project moving forward fast enough.”
Engineering on the last leg of the Old Alabama Road project dates back to 1999. As to why it took two decades and counting to finally get the project started, Sills cited several factors.
“They had to re-engineer the area around the airport, that’s been a major hold up,” he said. “Then, also, they had things like 125 parcels they had to buy, so that takes time.”
For the MPO, Sills said the next step in the process is getting the project funding assigned to the fiscal year 2020 budget, which would allow the Federal Highway Administration to appropriate the money.
The roadway construction, Sills said, will almost certainly be a catalyst for additional infrastructural projects within the Old Alabama Road corridor.
“Now that we have the go-ahead on the road, we’re going to go on and move ahead with getting the waterline rebuilt down through there, so you should see that construction starting sometime,” he said.
Once the project is finally wrapped up, Sills said he anticipates the new and improved Old Alabama Road corridor to greatly improve mobility in and around downtown Cartersville.
“I’m expecting to see quite a bit less truck traffic going down Main Street, which will enable a lot more pedestrian-friendly development,” he said. “And you may see a little less congestion there as well at the railroad track … and with that bypass of Cartersville, basically, you’ll see all the traffic getting to I-75 doesn’t have to necessarily use Main Street to get there.”