The streetscaping now underway on the Blue Mile of South Main Street should continue through two additional phases, plus a major upgrade of the Fair Road intersection, with work currently expected to last through 2028, Statesboro’s mayor and council heard this week.
Assistant City Manager Jason Boyles gave a Blue Mile update during the work session before Tuesday’s regular council meeting. Also mentioning the separate Creek on the Blue Mile plan, whose tiered channel for flood control and linear park features would begin where Little Lotts Creek passes under South Main and extend eastward, he traced the overall concept back to a 2012 community planning retreat that led to the creation of a South Main Street Revitalization Committee.
City Manager Charles Penny expressed concern that the street work, as it stretches on for a maybe a decade, will test the public’s patience.
“With the Blue Mile and South Main Street improvements, it’s going to be a continuous construction project, because, one, we just can’t afford to do it all at one time, but at the same time if there was a way to make that happen, it would be nice to say that from East Main Street all the way down to Tillman (Road), it has all been done,” Penny said.
Then ground could be broken for the creek project and businesses could begin to develop around it without the street and its infrastructure remaining under continual construction, he said. However, that’s not the way things are scheduled.
The timeline for the Phase 1 streetscaping and drainage project remains August 2021 to December 2022. But Boyles gave estimated timelines of August 2025 through December 2027 for Phase 2, and August 2026 through December 2028 for Phase 3.
These estimates leave a 2½-year gap between the first two phases. But the tentative Georgia Department of Transportation timeline for the overhaul of the Fair Road-South Main intersection, which is where streetscaping Phase 1 ends and Phase 2 will begin, has right of way acquisition slated for fiscal year 2025 and construction in 2026.
“Probably in the next five to 10 years it’s going to be a continuous construction project, unless there’s a way, Mayor, to do it sooner,” Penny said.
Mayor Jonathan McCollar suggested that the city should look for some new funding opportunities under the current federal push for infrastructure improvements. Penny agreed. Boyles said the city government is also urging the GDOT to move the project forward and asking Blue Mile Foundation and committee leaders to help in this appeal.
More than $20M
Like the $5.4 million Phase 1 streetscaping and drainage project now underway, Phases II and III are also expected to cost $5 million each, or more, and so is the intersection project, Boyles said in his brief report.
So, all four elements carry a combined, projected price tag of more than $20 million. Exactly how much more is unknown.
Construction of the Phase 1 streetscape project, along South Main from Tillman Road to the Fair Road intersection, has been underway since August. Drivers who frequent the Blue Mile are used to maneuvering along shifted lanes between rows of orange barrels and occasionally being directed by workers who rotate two-sided “stop” and “slow” signs.
Originally, city staff members wanted the intersection project to be done along with Phase 1 or immediately after it.
“We were hoping initially that, as part of that first phase, we would be able to work right out of the streetscape project and into a roundabout construction project or some type of intersection improvement project,” Boyles told the mayor and council.
One reason for the forecast delay between streetscaping Phases 1 and 2 is that the city has not been able to finalize the design of the intersection with the Georgia DOT, he said.
“The timelines for each phase have been challenging due to GDOT scheduling of the South Main Street-Fair Road intersection improvements,” Boyles wrote in an email reply later this week. “The intersection improvement project was added to the scope of work after planning for the Blue Mile began and the timeline for this work was moved out by GDOT from their initial timeline.”
Roundabout for sure?
As the Statesboro Herald reported back in February 2021, the GDOT listed construction of a single-lane roundabout, with a projected cost of up to $5.95 million, as a “proposed” but not yet definite plan for the intersection. It remains indefinite in April 2022.
“GDOT has not confirmed that a roundabout will be constructed as the final concept, but it is anticipated that it may possibly be a roundabout due to the geometrical configuration of the intersection,” Boyles wrote Thursday.
Some local residents have expressed a preference for a more traditional intersection, such as one with green-yellow-red traffic signals.
Because the intersection improvement, unlike the streetscaping, is a state-directed project, the GDOT gets to make the final determination but considers local input, Boyles said. City Council, back in mid-2020, committed $1.5 million for acquiring right of way as a partial “match” toward the state’s funding of construction in the $5.95 million intersection plan.
But the streetscaping, as seen in Phase 1, is a city-led and, so far, majority city-funded project. With the Phase 1 price tag now estimated at $5.4 million, the GDOT did provide a $1.19 million grant to help, based on the street drainage elements of the project.
The rest of the funding comes from two local sources: Statesboro’s share in Bulloch County’s voter-approved Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, or T-SPLOST, and city utilities revenues.
Statesboro City Council awarded the general contract last June to McLendon Enterprises of Vidalia on a base bid of $3,956,570. Relocation of utility lines added to the costs.
Power and telecommunications lines were to be consolidated to new poles west of the street and placed underground east of it.
Phase 1 progress
At this point, within the Phase 1 segment, the main power pole and power line relocation and phone and TV cable, water, sewer and gas mains relocation have all been completed. The new stormwater infrastructure is about 85% complete, Boyles reported.
But only about 35% of the surface streetscaping – including curbing, sidewalks, decorative streetlights, street resurfacing and grassing – has been done, he said. So that is what the public can expect to see underway the rest of this year.
Phases 2 and 3 will include many of the same elements, but with the narrower right of way toward the center of town, the plans call for placing all utility lines underground.
“Progress is slow … but I haven’t heard a lot of complaints,” Penny said. “I think people are OK because you see progress when you’re driving down South Main Street now. But over time, it will get old. … To me it’s a sign of progress for our community, but people have to be patient.”