The Georgia Department of Transportation has issued an encroachment permit for Newton County to begin improvements to Airport Road and Ga. Highway 142, according to County Engineer Tom Garrett. Work is expected to begin Monday, weather permitting.
Improvements are needed to accommodate school buses and additional traffic that will be generated when the new Flint Hill Elementary School opens Aug. 4.
"The existing skew of the intersection will be improved, the aprons will be widened to allow easier turns for the buses, and a right turn lane for drivers turning south from Airport Road onto (Hwy.) 142 will be installed," Garrett said.
Officials have been rushing to get a permit approved so that improvements can be completed by the start of school.
"We feel certain that the work can be completed before school starts in August. However, work may continue into the week of July 25, which is when teachers return to school," Garrett said.
The road will remain open but there may be temporary lane closures during construction, and Garrett said it may be more convenient for motorists to access Airport Road from Ga. Highway 81 north of Oxford until the project is complete.
"Creating a safe environment for drivers is the highest priority for both the county and GDOT. We feel that we now have a plan that will improve the safety of drivers in this area. We owe thanks to both GDOT and the Board of Education for doing their part to expedite this process to make the interim improvements before school starts," Garrett said.
Commissioners recently approved an allocation of $25,000 in SPLOST funds to fund this initial phase of improvements. Chairman Kathy Morgan previously said she expects the cost to come in at between $12,000 and $15,000.
"At the time those figures were given, we did not have an approved plan and permit from GDOT, so we were allowing some contingency in case GDOT had additional or unexpected requirements," Garrett said of why $25,000 was allocated. He added that the final cost is not yet known.
Improvements to the road will be made in four phases. The second phase is expected to begin later in the year and will include a full widening and realignment of the Airport Road/ Ga. Highway 142 intersection and will begin later in the year, to be completed by early 2012. The third phase will be the widening and rehabilitation of Airport Road, which will require the road to be closed, to begin during summer break 2012. The final phase will be improvements and addition of turn lanes to Airport Road and Ga. Highway 81, to be completed in 2014 or 2015.
Newton County is responsible for road improvements, but the school system is providing a 15-foot easement for road widening and will consider an additional easement if necessary for access to Ga. Highway 142, according to Morgan.
In other news, plans for the realignment and signalization of Ga. Highway 81/Crowell Road will be submitted next week by the county's consultant to GDOT for their review, Garrett said.
"We anticipate having the GDOT permit and to begin purchasing right-of-way by fall of this year," he said.