Though they braved a chilly morning in early January, Effingham County commissioners said they aren’t ready to celebrate the opening of the first phase of the roadwork.
“The time for celebration is when we open phase 2,” said Commissioner Verna Phillips.
Commissioners approved a final set of change orders for the first phase, including the addition of raised safety markers and the establishment of permanent barricades. County project manager Adam Kobek said R.B. Baker, the contractor for the road, did everything it could to keep the cost down of the last change order to around $14,000.
That change order was the result of a final walk-through by state Department of Transportation engineers, R.B. Baker representatives and officials from Moreland Altobelli. The change brought the price tag for the first phase to $5.17 million. The original estimate was approximately $4.9 million.
Kobek told commissioners that not approving the changes may put the road out of compliance. The barriers, installed to DOT specifications, were necessary after DOT officials watched traffic on Old Augusta Road.
“People were cutting off from the new alignment of Old Augusta and the driving down the shoulder,” County Administrator David Crawley said.
The barricades were necessary in order to open the road, county officials said.
“We had intended to put up our own barricades,” Kobek said. “But (the DOT) didn’t like our scenario.”
The DOT also requested thermoplastic striping on the road that is more durable and more reflective, Crawley said, and it’s also more expensive.
Commissioners also vented their frustration with the state Department of Transportation.
“Why does it seem like after the fact there are unfunded mandates? This is nerve-wracking,” commission Chairman Dusty Zeigler said.
County officials also lobbied their frustration over a change needed at the intersection of Old Augusta Road and Highway 21.
“It’s like if they say you’ve got to do it, you’ve got to do it,” Phillips said. “To me, it boils down to bureaucracy. All these items should have been addressed far before now. But we need this road.”
The county also is undertaking a warrant study that will determine if a traffic signal is needed at the intersection of 21 and Old Augusta Road.
“All they’ve got to do is get there at 5:30 in the afternoon,” Commissioner Reggie Loper said.
Funding for a possible traffic light at Old Augusta and Highway 21 may be possible through a federal grant, county officials said.
The county is continuing to move forward with plans for phase 2 of Old Augusta. Phase 2 will be just over 4 miles long and will go from Chimney Road to Fort Howard Road. Phase 1 is 2.75 miles long.