The work temporarily blocking portions of Savannah Avenue is the early stages of a $1.85 million city of Statesboro project to resurface the street, install new sidewalks and crosswalks, build islands to slow traffic, line the sewer and replace water mains.
As of noon Wednesday, a portion of the avenue was closed in the commercial area between East Main Street downtown and Zetterower Avenue. A day later, a "closed to through traffic" sign with a detour appeared on the more residential end of Savannah Avenue at Gentilly Road. Some disruptions can be expected over the next several months, according to city officials.
"It's going to be a while" before it's all done, said City Engineer Brad Deal. "The completion date is in June."
One traffic signal set, at the Savannah Avenue-Zetterower intersection, will also be replaced with a new type.
City Council awarded the general contract to Southeastern Civil Inc., based in Statesboro, Aug. 4, and the city issued a notice to proceed Sept 23. The projected completion time was 270 days.
"Our hope would be that they would get it done a little bit sooner," said interim City Manager Robert Cheshire.
Southeastern Civil's bid of $1,847,792 was the lowest of four received, and was below the engineers' cost estimate of $1.95 million. Hussey, Gay, Bell Engineering and Parker Engineering both did design work for the project, according to City Council minutes. It extends a little less than one mile.
The funding comes from the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax through two city departments, Engineering-Public Works and Water-and-Sewer.
Fresh pavement tends to encourage motorists to drive faster, Cheshire said. But one objective on Savannah Avenue is to make it more pedestrian-friendly, slowing motor vehicle traffic.
A traffic study showed that the 85th percentile speed on the street is 37 mph, meaning that 15 percent of drivers are going at least seven miles per hour faster than the posted 30 mph speed limit. The goal is to bring the 85th percentile speed, often used as a safety indicator by traffic planners, closer to the posted limit, said Deal.
To that end, nine concrete-bordered islands are being added in the middle of the avenue.
"It gives you that traffic calming by giving that choking-down effect," Cheshire said. "You're getting into a small lane, so you need to slow down."
Pedestrian crossings will be located at three of the islands. These will have signs, but not electronic signals.
The contract price allows only for crosswalks marked by painted lines. But if the city staff is able to find $27,000 savings elsewhere, an alternate item in the bid will allow crosswalks to be installed using a faux brick material like that at the West Main-College Street intersection.
This should further calm traffic by providing a visual indicator for drivers, and the islands will give pedestrians a refuge to look both ways, Cheshire said.
The Savannah Avenue-Zetterower traffic signals will be mounted on mast arms on decorative black poles, also similar to those at the West Main and College intersection but of a lower-cost variety, Deal said. Also like the previous West Main installation, the new system will use signal-control cameras.
These cameras are not for enforcement purposes, and do not record pictures, Cheshire said. They sense the presence of vehicles so that the system can react to them, turning the lights green when vehicles are present on one street and not the other.
Older-style traffic lights use an electromagnetic loop buried under the pavement to sense cars. While more expensive initially, Deal said, the camera system eliminates the need to bury the loop, and to dig it up again for repairs. The original paved layer of the avenue, long buried under asphalt, is made of concrete, posing an obstacle to digging and a barrier to drainage.
"It's a good example of where to use those when you can," Cheshire said. "When we put those loops in it just constantly tears up because with the weather, water gets in there. So we'll be able to resurface it, put those cameras up there and it will last a lot longer."
Savannah Avenue is also getting new sidewalks. Gaps where no sidewalks existed before will get them.
Water & sewer
Meanwhile, the city is taking the water main that runs beneath Savannah Avenue and having it replaced with new mains under the sidewalk. That should make future repairs less disruptive, Cheshire said. The project will leave the concrete roadbed in place but replace the asphalt on top.
The old terra cotta sewer line beneath Savannah Avenue will also remain where it is, but a subcontractor is snaking a liner of an initially flexible material through it. The liner is inflated with water and cured in place.
The closings of street sections now taking place are the sewer relining and water main installation work, Deal said.
"The contractor is having to set up detours every day for what he's doing, not in the same place every day, but it's kind of a moving road closure," Deal said. "We try to minimize it to one or two logical blocks."
Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.