A detour of through-traffic from the western portion of Statesboro’s bypass – also known as Veterans Memorial Parkway – between U.S. 301 South and U.S. Highway 80 West through downtown had ended by Friday morning after repairs to one previously rough railroad crossing.
When originally announced by the Georgia Department of Transportation the previous week, the detour was to last from 7 a.m. Monday, Dec. 4 until as late as 6 p.m. Friday, Dec. 8. But after rapid progress by the railroad company on the improvements, the crossing would probably reopen early, Georgia DOT District 5 Communications Officer Jill Nagel said late morning Wednesday.
“They got the rails in. They expect to get the paving done today,” she said, relaying what railroad company staff told other GDOT personnel. “They’re waiting on a train to come through.”
Then she said this part might not happen, but “it could possibly open (Thursday) morning.” Although work could be seen continuing into Wednesday evening, it was obviously completed before Friday, when the barricade-type “Road Closed” barriers had been removed and smaller detour signs turned around.
During the closure, Patriot Rail Company, new owner of the short-line Georgia Southern Railroad, had crews with heavy equipment both on the tracks and on the roadway rebuilding the rail crossing between J.C. Lewis Ford and Jimmy Britt Chrysler on the bypass just west of U.S. 301 South.
Patriot Rail’s project
Patriot Rail purchased the Georgia Southern Railroad from previous owner Pioneer Lines within the past year. An assessment was done of the railroad’s properties and crossings, and this one showed up as needing maintenance, said Katie Roller, director of public affairs for Patriot Rail’s Georgia Southern Railroad.
The company coordinated with the GDOT for permission to close the crossing and arrange a detour, she said. But the railroad company, not the GDOT, was paying for the maintenance work.
“That will actually be a concrete-top crossing when it’s all done, which is the preferred material for that type of roadway and the traffic that utilizes that crossing,” Roller told the Herald the previous week. “So I think it will be a nice, smooth ride for those that utilize it.”
Statesboro’s city government did not have a direct role in the project. But the city’s Public Works and Engineering Director John Washington received a letter emailed Nov. 28 from Derek Metts, public projects engineer for Patriot Rail Company, providing a map of the detour route and seeking the city’s cooperation to inform the public
City officials had reasons to want to see this work done, Washington indicated in a phone interview.
“The railroad crossing there, people have been complaining about it; they’ve been calling Public Works, calling City Hall, emailing people who they have direct contact with and asking when is this railroad crossing going to be repaired where it’s not going to be so rough,” he said. “And this has been going on for, I don’t know how long.”
The crossing itself was closed to all four lanes of traffic while the work was done. However, a bold-type note in the Georgia DOT’s Nov. 29 letter of responsibility to the railroad company and Statesboro city officials emphasized that the bypass would “remain open to local traffic up to the work zone.” This was to allow access to businesses, schools and homes.
So all intersections along the western bypass, such as at Cypress Lake Road, Country Club Road, Pulaski Road and Westside Road, remained open.
The Statesboro Police Department had no planned role in redirecting traffic, but placed a notice on its social media pages advising people to “plan ahead and use alternative routes.”
Crews from the GDOT itself were responsible for setting up the signs for the detour and the closing of the railroad crossing, according to Nagel.