CONYERS - The Georgia Department of Transportation said the major work on the Ga. Highway 138 widening project between Interstate 20 and Sigman Road will be mostly completed within two weeks.
However, that was little consolation for motorists Friday who were stuck in the morass of traffic that jammed roadways along the Ga. 138 and Salem Road corridors most of the day.
Work crews began paving near the intersections of Dogwood Drive, Ga. 138 and I-20 - the last sections of the road widening project - in the morning. By lunchtime, northbound traffic on Ga. 138 was at a crawl and backing up to Flat Shoals Road. By 3 p.m., traffic was backed up 3 miles along the state highway.
Rockdale County Sheriff's Office deputies had to close the entrance ramps onto Ga. 138 from I-20 for about 45 minutes as they worked to get traffic moving.
The area is arguably one of the busiest intersections in the county. In addition to serving as an interchange for the interstate, the intersection is also the main entrance to a major shopping district in Conyers. These factors combined to make a perfect storm of congestion that eventually affected all roadways along Flat Shoals Road between Parker and Salem roads Friday.
GDOT spokesman Mark McKinnon said motorists should expect more of the same throughout the Christmas holiday season as work crews finish work on the $13.3 million road widening project.
"They are working away and the weather is good, so we hope to have all paving completed and everything in its final configuration," McKinnon said. "They are trying to shift traffic around to complete the paving, but everything should be normal within the next two weeks.
"They are feverishly paving to get the job done as quickly as possible," he added.
Sgt. Jodi Shupe, spokeswoman for the sheriff's office, said the paving contractors, Conyers-based Pittman Construction, hired off-duty RCSO deputies for the day to help direct traffic around the work site.
However, as congestion increased, the sheriff's office received several complaints from motorists. That's when other deputies and shift supervisors were called out to help, Shupe said.
"We're doing everything we can, and we're even pulling people off shifts along with supervisors to direct traffic," she said. "Unfortunately, we have no control over the construction work."
Shupe suggested motorists avoid using the Ga. 138 and Dogwood Drive intersection, if possible. Alternate routes to the Dogwood Drive shopping district include Salem Road to Dogwood Drive on the east, and Gees Mills Road and Old Covington Highway to Dogwood Drive to the north.
Once the construction is completed, Ga. 138 will be widened to six lanes with reconfigured intersections at American Legion and Pine Log roads.
When GDOT completes the Ga. 138 widening, work will begin on reconnecting Old Covington Highway with Green Street, under Ga. 138 and behind The Home Depot, which will provide another access point to the busy Dogwood Drive retail site.
Jay Jones can be reached at email@example.com.