The ceremonial turn of the shovel took place on a warm Tuesday afternoon. The real work will begin in a few days for the long-awaited Old Augusta Road project.
County and R.B. Baker Construction officials wielded the gold shovels to mark the start of phase I of the paving and extension.
“It’s been in the works for a long time,” said commission Chairwoman Myra Lewis. “We’re finally making some progress.”
Said Commissioner Verna Phillips: “I’m really happy. This has been in the works for a long, long, long time. This will help alleviate the traffic congestion on Highway 21.”
The first phase will be from Highway 21 at the county line to Chimney Road, a distance of approximately 2.75 miles.
The road will be two 12-foot lanes with a right-of-way for four lanes. The projected cost is $4.9 million.
The road will tie into Highway 21 where the existing Effingham County Chamber of Commerce sign stands.
Phillips said the state Department of Transportation originally gave the county a start date of 2007 and then
pushed it back to 2011. That’s when the county decided to approach the project in three phases.
The second phase will run from Chimney Road to Fort Howard Road just past the Georgia-Pacific mill, a length of more than four miles. Survey and alignment work on that stretch has been finished and rights-of-way acquisitions, drawings and state approvals are expected to take place in the next year to two years.
Preliminary costs for phase 2 are $7.5 million.
“Our largest return on investment will be phase 2,” Phillips said. “We are looking forward to getting that started.”
Phase 3 is the stretch from Fort Howard Road to Highway 275, but plans and details have not been developed for it.
George Washington is said to have traveled Old Augusta Road on his visit to the area and Phillips believes the road will have an impact on the county’s future.
“Now the road will bolster the vitality of the community,” she said. “It will open opportunities for the economic development of Effingham County.”
Phillips, in whose district the project lies, didn’t know what to think when she saw the date — April 1 — of the groundbreaking.
“When staff told me the date, I was sure I was going to be the only one here,” she said.
R.B. Baker project manager Joel Millsap said his company plans to start clearing in the next two weeks. Construction is expected to last until next spring.
“It’s going to take a while to get everything cleared and grubbed,” he said. “By May, we should be making good progress.”