To the casual observer, it may not appear that the widening project of Veterans Parkway in north Columbus has made much progress since last August. That’s when the 1.1-mile of road work was originally scheduled for completion.
But the Georgia Department of Transportation says the multi-lane expansion of Veterans Parkway, or U.S. Hwy. 27, from Old Moon Road north to Turnberry Drive is making headway and should be finished within several more months.
Kimberly Larson, communications officer with GDOT’s district office in Thomaston, said it is now looking like at least late summer before the $14.2 million project will be wrapped up and motorists using the improved roadway.
Larson said via email that a progress meeting with Columbus-based McMath-Turner Construction, the general contractor for the project, took place within the last couple of weeks. A paving subcontractor was expected to move into the work zone late last week to begin laying down asphalt on the northern end of the project.
“After that section of the project is paved, the paving contractor plans to move down to the intersection of Moon Road, Williams Road and Veterans Parkway,” Larson said. “They will then move down to the Old Moon Road intersection to tie that side road in to Veterans Parkway. The paving will show significant progress to motorists in a short amount of time.”
Crews from McMath-Turner Construction were busy Monday digging in one area near Old Moon Road, with workers smoothing out portions of roadway nearby in an apparent precursor to paving. However, in other areas of the construction zone just after the lunch hour, equipment was idle.
The original notice by GDOT to proceed with the widening of the heavily used section of Veterans Parkway came in October 2014. Initial efforts included the purchase of right-of-way parcels being used to turn the former two-lane road into a four-lane parkway with raised medians. The work was originally scheduled for completion last August, but crews encountered problems with utility and storm drain pipe portions of the construction.
Georgia Department of Transportation traffic counts show that 16,100 vehicles move through the heart of the construction zone on Veterans Parkway on any given day. Just south of the intersection with Moon and Williams roads, the count rises to 19,200 vehicles daily, with the total count climbing as Veterans Parkway flows southward and nears J.R. Allen Parkway and its major intersection, as well as the Columbus Park Crossing shopping and restaurant hub.
The construction zone includes three schools — Northside High, Veterans Memorial Middle and North Columbus Elementary — as well as an increasing amount of residential housing to include apartment complexes. Some residents of Harris County also travel along the parkway each day for work or shopping, with the entire mix of uses creating traffic congestion in the mornings and late afternoons.
While the construction project will bring relief to the area when it is completed, those living and doing business along the roadway say the drawn-out work has been frustrating at the very least and costly for some.
“We are hoping they are going to finish it fast because it has been a disaster the last eight months. We can hardly keep our employees busy,” said Jigar Shah, co-owner of The Maple Mart convenience store near the north end of the project.
The Maple Mart complex includes a sports bar and restaurant, as well as a liquor store. The Veterans Parkway entrance to the business was closed last September due to the roadwork, Shah said, with the path to the store via Cooper Creek Road very rough to negotiate, he said.
That has deterred many people living in the area and traveling through it for work, school or play from shopping with him. Prior to the project, the business owner said customers from the nearby schools were part of his business, including those stopping by in the afternoon for drinks and snacks to consume during baseball, softball and football games and practices.
“Our busiest time is normally early morning around 5 to 7. But right now there is no busy time. You just pray everyday that people will show up,” said Shah, grimacing when told it will be at least late summer before the entire project is completed. “Right now, the home-going traffic, they don’t want to make a turn to come here because it’s so much hassle. They keep going.”
This is the second major project that McMath-Turner Construction has worked on in recent years. It widened Whittlesey Road between Whitesville Road and Veterans Parkway near Columbus Park Crossing. That project, which started in 2012, was largely completed by the end of 2016, but also considerably past the original date.