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Blue Mile streetscape project moves forward, with year to go
Expect some lane closures, but no detour at this time
Workers in Georgia Power hardhats are seen doing excavation in the Blue Mile area of South Main Street last week. All power and telecommunications lines immediately to the east of the street are being placed underground as part of the streetscape plan.
Workers in Georgia Power hardhats are seen doing excavation in the Blue Mile area of South Main Street last week. All power and telecommunications lines immediately to the east of the street are being placed underground as part of the streetscape plan. - photo by Statesboro Herald

Work on the $4 million first phase of Statesboro’s Blue Mile streetscape project recently  progressed from removal of business signs from the right of way on South Main Street – which is part of U.S. Highways 301 and 25 – to relocation of overhead power lines and now, underground utilities.

“The actual signs, but not necessarily their bases, have all been relocated or moved,” city Public Works and Engineering Director John Washington said. “Some have been relocated onto the properties where they belong. Some, the bases are still in place and they have to be removed, and I think they’re about completed with relocation of the (city-owned natural) gas line.”

Spanning about half a mile in this  phase, from Tillman Road up to the Fair Road, the plan calls for landscaping, decorative streetlights, benches, a “pocket park” and a bus shelter for the city’s planned small-bus transit system, as well  as sidewalk widening and some drainage improvements.

Water line relocation has also begun, and the natural gas and water lines had to be moved first to make way for the storm sewer work, Washington said. Georgia Power, coordinating with telecommunications companies that share its routes, has installed some new poles on the west side of South Main Street. To the east of this “Blue Mile” portion of the street, all of the utility lines, including the power cables, will be placed underground.


Expect lane closures

Utility work resulted in the closure of a portion of the northbound lane for part of the day Tuesday and again Wednesday, with northbound traffic shifted to the center lane. More lane closures are anticipated for next week.

“They’ll be starting to put in the storm sewer, and they’re going to start on the east side, so we will have lane shifts and lane closures,” Washington said. “It will be reduced down to two lanes because they’ll be doing work right around the curb-and-gutter line.”

Further lane closures of this type can be expected as the project progresses, but no detours off the highway are expected, at least not for the remainder of 2021, he said.

Work on the Phase 1 Blue Mile Streetscape is expected to continue through much of 2022.

“We’ll hopefully be done within a year with everything,” Washington said. “Toward the end of the project we’ll be putting in ornamental streetlights, and we’re working to get Wi-Fi access all down the corridor.”

But first, the underground utilities and storm sewers must be completed before the new sidewalks can be installed, he said.


Funded, contracted

It’s a city-led project, but with a $1,193,000 state grant through the Georgia Department of Transportation as part of the funding. The rest is coming 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 in June awarded the general contract to McLendon Enterprises of Vidalia on a base bid of $3,956,570, which was the lower of the bids submitted by just two companies. That exceeded Statesboro officials’ original $3.8 million cost estimate, but remained within a $4.13 million final engineering estimate that Washington cited in June.

Under the contract, McLendon is also responsible for moving the city-owned water, sewer and gas lines and works through some subcontractors that have done other utility work for the city, Washington said.

But that contract did not include the cost of moving power and telecommunications lines. Relocating the non-city-owned utility lines was estimated to cost about $1.4 million.


Private signs moved

Earlier in the funding and planning process, the Georgia DOT informed the city government that signs, mostly owned by businesses, on 16 parcels of land along the project route would have to be moved out of the 100-foot highway right of way. City officials set aside money in the project budget and eventually allotted about $123,000 for sign relocation reimbursements and construction easements. Each sign owner first had to obtain a quote from a sign contractor for the cost of moving a sign, which was compared to a city engineering estimate before the city reimbursed the cost.

The largest such payment was $29,235 to Stacy Underwood LLC for combined sign relocation cost and construction easement at Uncle Shug’s, 434 South Main St. Because the cost exceeded the city manager’s $20,000 discretionary spending authority, this was the one sign relocation order City Council had to vote on, and the council gave its unanimous approval Sept. 7.

For Wi-Fi access, which will be free for pedestrians on the sidewalk and in the pocket park but not accessible inside cars on the highway, the city is working with Bulloch Solutions and using some equipment purchased under an earlier grant, Washington said. The pocket park will be a crescent-shaped area with a sheltered bench, planters and a trellis.

The bus shelter will be installed at a separate location.


Other ‘Blue Mile’ plans

The Phase 2 streetscape, transforming the other half of the Blue Mile, from the Fair Road intersection up to the Bulloch County Courthouse, hasn’t been funded or designed in detail yet.

Meanwhile, the Georgia DOT has a plan for replacing the South Main and Fair Road intersection with a roundabout, and the city has planning and architectural firm TSW developing a new Downtown Master Plan. Consultants from TSW and representatives of the city government shared that master plan, still in development, and received input from community members during an Oct. 15 evening meeting at First United Methodist Church on South Main Street.

The Creek on the Blue Mile project is also a separate plan, crossing the Blue Mile where Little Lotts Creek passes under the highway. The Downtown Master Plan attempts to mesh with all of these ongoing plans and incorporate additional possibilities.

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