A change to the roundabout project for Hwys. 16 and 54 in Turin threatens to set the project back by another year.
The delay, caused by an increase in construction costs, comes six months after the Georgia Department of Transportation announced that the project could go out to bid as soon as fall of 2019.
Coweta County officials were set to begin purchasing the right-of-way needed for the large, multi-lane roundabout, this summer.
The county needed approved right-of-way plans from the state so they could begin negotiations with property owners.
“We called to request a status update on where we are with the right-of-way plans,” Coweta Public Works Director Tod Handley said following Tuesday night’s meeting of the Coweta County Board of Commissioners.
“They said ‘we need to talk about the project because there has been a change in status,’” Handley said.
A conference call was arranged, and GDOT told Coweta officials that the new cost estimate for the project jumped from $5 million to $7.6 million. Because of that increase, GDOT wants to change the design of the project to bring it in line with the budget. And that redesign will take a while.
The change will do away with construction of a new Hwy. 54 bridge over the Norfolk Southern Railroad, and will shift the roundabout to the south.
The original plans were to build a new bridge next to the old one, and slightly east. Traffic could continue to use the old bridge until the new bridge was complete, and the whole intersection would have moved a bit east, closer to downtown Turin.
According to the minutes from the conference call, the bridge doesn’t need to be replaced but “it was being replaced solely to facilitate the current design of the project.”
GDOT officials said that the project could move forward as currently designed if Coweta would pony up the additional money. Right-of-way costs are likely going to increase as well. The current estimate for right-of-way acquisition is $613,000.
According to the conference call minutes, Handley and Associate Administrator Eddie Whitlock expressed concerns about the impact the shift in the roundabout location could have on nearby properties.
GDOT Project Manager Cherral Dempsey told Handley and Whitlock that GDOT was working towards having right-of-way authorized in the second have of fiscal year 2019, which ends July 1, 2019.
An intersection improvement at 16 and 54 has been in the works for at least 14 years, said Commissioner Paul Poole. For years, a traffic light was planned, and that design was later changed to a roundabout. Construction was tentatively set for fiscal year 2017.
The discovery of some historic resources, including historic pecan trees, slowed the work and the “best case scenario” was construction in 2021.
“This has been a nightmare,” Poole said.
Then, late last year, the funding source was switched from federal to state funding. With the switch to state money, there were no longer federal historic and cultural resources restrictions, and construction was tentatively set for fall of 2019. The state has historic and cultural resource rules, but they are much less stringent than the federal ones.
In the summer of 2016, GDOT constructed the state’s first “miniature roundabout” at the intersection, as an interim improvement over the four-way stop that had served the intersection for years.
County Administrator Michael Fouts said Tuesday that State Sen. Matt Brass, R-Newnan, was going to work with GDOT to acquire funding.
“I spoke with GDOT about our concerns on the project being delayed,” Brass said Wednesday. “They committed to look to see if there was anything that could be done to keep it on schedule."