After years of delay and anticipation, widening of the remaining portion of the Veteran's Memorial Parkway (Statesboro Bypass) is officially underway. The portion of the Bypass stretching from Highway 301 South to Highway 301 North encompasses some of the heaviest traveled roadway in this area functioning as a main thoroughfare and not necessarily as the bypass it was intended to be.
Because of increasing traffic, mounting congestion, and high density residential construction on the two-lane portion of the Bypass, local residents have been anticipating its widening.
Last summer, the 6.95 mile paving project was originally awarded by the Georgia Department of Transportation to Douglas Asphalt who posted a winning bid of $18,811,311. Douglas Asphalt did not comply with the terms of the bid contract and were found in default, and their bonding company was subsequently notified of the default. The bonding company then took action.
"Reeves Construction Company was contracted by the bonding company and is now recognized as the contractor on the job by the Georgia Department of Transportation," said Sherry Beal, communications office for the Department of Transportation's District Five office in Jesup.
Considered to be one of the largest construction companies in the state of Georgia, Americus-based Reeves Construction Company has approximately 450 employees, 13 asphalt plants, and more than 1,100 units of construction equipment. Annual sales are near $125 million.
Bob Land, executive vice president of Reeves, said he is very aware of how important widening the remaining portion of the Bypass is to Statesboro.
"I know that the community of Statesboro is anxious to have this road widened," Land said. "The contract completion date is November 1, 2008. We have a lot of work to do between now and then."
Land said paving the Bypass might appear to be simpler than it is.
"We have a lot of work to do prior to putting the pavement down," Land said. "We will have to grade out and level the additional lanes and get everything prepped for paving. I know that our folks are already in Statesboro on the job."
Local businessman and Georgia DOT board representative, Raybon Anderson, said he is very excited about the road construction getting underway, and hopes the taxpayers realize that the state wasn't penalized monetarily for the delay.
"I want folks to understand that even though the bidder that was originally awarded the contract defaulted, the paving won't cost the state any more money than was originally bid," Anderson said. "It was up to the original bidder's bonding company to contract with a new construction company to do the job."
"Hopefully in the next 16 to 18 months, we will have a beautiful new road to travel on," he said.
Maz Elhaj, Statesboro's city engineer, said his office will not have a role in the paving other than possibly relocating some utilities.
"Our role was really to look at things prior to paving," Elhaj said. "We have worked with them on some traffic light issues. For instance, I know the intent is to place a traffic light at the intersection of the Bypass and Bunny Akins Boulevard. I am not aware of any additional lights on the Bypass other than that one."
Dan Chicola is Reeves' project manager overseeing the Statesboro road widening project.
People will see that we have number of things that are going to occur at the same time," Chicola said. "We are going to start at Old Register Road and work our way towards Highway 301 North preparing the subgrade. At the same time we will be putting in the culvert for the pedestrian crossing that is going to go under the Bypass near the location of Franklin Toyota."
"It is going to be a process and we are asking for your support," he said. ""We would like to tell everyone to bear with us, and that we are going to do the best that we can."
Those interested in developing commercial property around the Bypass will be keeping a keen on its progress. Sales of commercial property adjoining the Bypass have been bringing in record prices in recent months.
Local retail estate agent, Robert Tanner, specializes in the marketing and sale of commercial properties. Tanner said the widening of the Bypass should have an effect on development, but not necessarily price.
"I think that now that people can actually see work being done on the roadway, development of parcels along the Bypass will happen at a quicker pace," Tanner said. "I don't necessarily see property values being enhanced by it."