Construction intended to relieve traffic congestion entered its third and final phase Monday.
Workers and heavy landscaping equipment will soon be seen tearing up the area between Baker Road and Highway 41, the last stretch of road to be renovated over the next two years.
The project in its entirety was first placed before the City Council of Kennesaw around 1996, according to Mayor Mark Mathews. Since then, it has undergone several phases of approval and review, until it was ultimately granted funding through the 2005 SPLOST.
The bill is projected to settle around $23 million by the time construction is completed on July 18, 2013. This final phase will make up $11 million of the total.
The first phase of the project involved widening Jiles Road from the CSX railroad crossing up to Cherokee street and was contracted to Baldwin Paving.
Phase two involved the construction of a new bridge over the railroad tracks near Baker Road and I-75. The bridge itself is complete–all that's left is to attach it to Jiles via asphalt, as it currently sits alone in a sea of gravel.
City officials said that contracting the bridge to a separate company as a stand-alone project was a better investment, so what was intended to be one phase–the road and the bridge–was split into two.
The project has been met with heavy criticism, although officials maintain there has been more support than complaints from the public.
"That's a fairly congested corridor down through there," said Project Manager Mike Wright. "We've coordinated the design fairly closely, I think, with the feedback we got from the citizens in that area."
Wright will be overseeing the next two years of construction between the bridge and Highway 41. CMES Inc. has been contracted to work on this phase.
Wright said the project should move smoothly, and assured residents of the affected area that they shouldn't see too much of a mess for long.
"We're going to try our best to minimize the pain," he said. "You never satisfy everybody, but I think we've got pretty much everybody fairly well satisfied with what we're doing."
Mayor Mathews said that support from the public outweighs the criticism.
"Everyone gets frustrated with the inconvenience of road construction," he said. "But the majority of the feedback I've been getting is that everyone thinks it's still a good project."
Mathews also said that people often ask why these road expansions were not done years ago.
"It has been a priority of the cities for many, many years," he said.
But whether the majority of the public stands behind the project or not, there is at least some criticism. One concern is the potential for lengthy traffic delays due to one-lane closures during construction.
Wright said he doesn't see the closures as a major problem.
"We'll be working during the daytime," he said, adding that one-lanes will be an occasional inevitability. "But by the end of every day, by night, we'll have both lanes opened back up again. We'll never actually leave anything down at one lane or anything like that."
The Work Ahead
Officials said construction will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.
, Wright said he met with members of the Cobb County School District about concerns regarding bus circulation at , stating that the people he spoke with were “very pleased with what we’ve got.”
There are plans to construct a dedicated right turning lane into the school to soothe morning congestion, as well as a two-way left turning lane, with a dedicated left turning lane for buses. Additionally, Wright said that construction and development on Jiles Road would result in “no difficulties with bus routing.”
Wright did mention, however, that residents of subdivisions like Legacy Park will probably see the most inconvenience during the project, as the construction will plow directly through their only outlet near I-75.
"We're going to be rebuilding the road both horizontally and vertically around (Legacy Park)," said Wright. "We'll have some times when people are going to be running on crushed stone for a road instead of a paved road."
Officials said the first two phases of the project have already made significant improvements to traffic flow in the affected areas.
"It's made the transition from Jiles Road to Cherokee street a little bit easier, as well as making the transition from Cherokee onto Jiles easier," said Mathews. "There's a fair amount of people that turn off of Baker Road, so that's a major convenience for those people."
Mathews also said he and the rest of the City Council understand there is some pain involved with such a huge project, and that they are feeling it as much as anyone else.
"We all deal with it every day," he said. "We all live and commute back and forth and traverse on the roads every day."
Citizens have also voiced concerns about the possibility of construction work through the night later on through the project. Those concerns can be put to rest, however, as both the mayor and Wright confirmed that Cobb County has prohibited any night work during the next two years.
"(This is) primarily because it's a residential area," Mathews said.
"We're not going to let (CMES) do anything that we would call night work," Wright affirmed. He reiterated that he intends to make the project as painless as possible for the residents of the area, and urged patience.
"I tell (the public), 'I'm not going to lie to you, it's going to be painful,'" he said. "Unfortunately, I think that that's the case just about everywhere."