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End of 196 widening work coming into sight
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Project progress

One bridge over the area’s wetlands, Baker Swamp, is complete and the other is halfway done.
Currently, construction crews continue to mill out the old road and bring up the profile grade to level the road.
“So, you don’t want the road going really high or really low. You don’t want the road curving around,” Trace Martell, with R.B. Baker Construction, said. “There’s a great deal of preliminary [work] done in terms of determining proper alignment.”
“Approximately 50 percent of the roadway on this project has been completed through the intermediate asphalt course, and traffic has been shifted onto these newly constructed lanes,” GDOT spokesperson Erica Fatima said.
Less than 10 miles of construction on Highway 196 will take more than three years to complete, but the contractor and Georgia Department of Transportation officials say they’re sure it’s going to get done eventually.
The project, which began in Oct-ober 2006, doesn’t have a specific completion date, but there is an end in sight.
“The project will be complete this year,” said Trace Martell with R.B. Baker Construction, the project contractor.
Martell, who said he drives in traffic everyday, sympathized with frustrated motorists, who he thinks must be tired of seeing orange construction cones and having to adapt to constantly changing conditions.
“Once people get in their cars, they don’t like to be slowed down. We all lead busy lives,” Martell said. “But with progress comes a little pain.”
The $40 million state project involves widening the current two-lane highway into four lanes and creating a grass median, according to GDOT spokesperson Erica Fatima.
Traffic signals will eventually be placed at the end of Highway 196, where it intersects with Highway 17.
Martell said it’s a challenge to safely build two new lanes and rehabilitate the two existing lanes, all while traffic zips up and down the Giving a rough estimate, he said the average daily traffic is around 15,000 to 20,000 vehicles.
Martell doesn’t think the construction is a total change for drivers. Two lanes have always been open since the project began.
“They’ve always had what they’ve always had,” Martell said.
Fatima said snags in the project’s timeline were because public utilities had to be reorganized.
Martell said utility delays are not an “uncommon occurrence, but it significantly impacts the durations of the jobs.”
“Many of your public utilities’ services run in the right of way [and] when you do a widening project, you take substantially more right of way than you previously had,” Martell said.
However, most of the contract time was spent on utility work.
“It’s not the utility companies’ fault that they have to move all their [lines],” he said.
Martell explained work was done in 12 separate workzones.
The accessible lane shifts drivers saw had to do with the construction focus moving from one side of the road to the other.
“You build the new then you transition them on the new,” Martell said. “We’re literally moving millions of yards of material and it all goes in stages.”
Fatima said GDOT officials hope more space will help alleviate congestion and make for a smoother traffic flow.
“The volume on this road is anticipated to increase significantly over the next several years,” Martell said.
And Martell agreed it is better to be safe than sorry — even if means motorists having to put up with construction.
“The sheriff’s department could tell you the number fatalities on this road has traditionally been high,” he said. “In the long run, as far as safety to the public and quality of product they’re receiving, I think they’ll be very pleased.” 
Being a largely rural area, Martell said work is done during the day so construction noise does not disturb people at night.
“We try to be a good neighbor,” he said.
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