Contract for Salem Road extended
Federal Highway Admin seeks more information

COVINGTON - County commissioners extended a contract with transportation consultants handling preliminary engineering for the Salem Road widening project Tuesday night.

EarthTech Inc. will perform additional work on the project due to requirements from the Federal Highway Administration that have further delayed the project, County Engineer Kevin Walter said.

After two years of preliminary engineering meetings involving stakeholders, residents and representatives with the Georgia Department of Transportation, the state concluded that Salem should be widened to a six-lane highway, Walter said.

But the Federal Highway Administration questioned that judgment call, and specifically whether the current interchange with Interstate 20 is sufficient to handle the volume of a six-lane road, he said.

Before signing off on the plan, the FHA is requesting additional data, including traffic counts and a full environmental assessment.

"This is disappointing to us because just these decisions by the Federal Highway Administration added another year to the project," Walter said.

Newton and Rockdale counties joined together to fund preliminary engineering, which must be completed before the design phase can begin, he added.

"EarthTech did an excellent job for both Rockdale County and Newton County. They did about 20 percent more than we envisioned with the money we gave them," Walter said.

The contract extension was for $39,482, bringing the total cost to $699,482.

Newton County's portion is $21,715. The Rockdale County Board of Commissioners will vote whether to extend its contract with EarthTech at its Tuesday meeting.

Newton County is to be reimbursed by the Georgia Department of Transportation, while Rockdale's reimbursement will come from the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority, Walter said.

The additional work should take about three months to complete, he said.

In other news, commissioners approved a task order for $52,601 for repairs to four corrugated metal culverts.

The culverts are located under critical roadways and repairs will prevent failure and collapse, Walter said.

The affected roadways are Mills Chase, Ram Drive, Oak Hill Road and Village Drive.

The culverts are located deep under roadways and would require massive excavation to replace, or, in the case of Ram Drive, are located on roadways that are too congested to be closed for excavation, Walter said.

Commissioners awarded the contract to Ultraliner Inc. based on the company's ability to perform the repairs without excavation, by inserting a PVC liner into the pipes.

The repairs will be funded through the general fund's capital improvement account.

Finally, commissioners approved a $9,600 task order for transportation consultants Street Smarts to perform a safety audit at the intersection of Marble Drive and Cook Road.

Street Smarts will determine whether the intersection needs a traffic light and whether it needs to be realigned, Walter said.

The study, which will be funded through special purpose local option sales tax revenues, should take 90 days to complete.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.