The roughly 7-mile stretch of Highway 140 will increase from two lanes to four with a divided median in a project preliminarily planned to wrap up in 2016 or 2017. Initial estimates from the Georgia Department of Transportation place the project cost at $49.2 million.
"Construction is still long-range, but if funds become available, it maybe able to contracted by mid-April of 2013," said Mohamed Arafa, GDOT communication specialist. "A project of this magnitude usually takes two to three years to complete. If construction begins May of 2013, it should be expected to be completed by the end of May 2016. But, of course, this is provided the availability of funds."
Funding would come from the State Transportation Improvement Program, sponsored 80 percent by federal dollars and the remaining 20 percent by state funds. Bridges also would come under full federal funding, including the bridge at Oothkalooga Creek and CSX railroad.
With planning nearing completion, GDOT Board Member Jeff Lewis noted that some major hurdles already have been cleared with environmental regulations and additional documentation.
"The planning, as I understand it, should be almost completed and all the environmental documents should be completed around now or within the next few weeks," Lewis said. "The next phase of it is to make sure that funding is secured to start right-of-way acquisition."
The project will require 156 parcels to be acquired, and the acquisition process could take 13 to 15 months, including public hearings for land owners and other concerned parties, Lewis said.
"If we're able to start around the 2013, 2014 time frame, we hope completion is done in 2016, 2017. I know that sounds like a long time from now to then. That's five to six years, depending on how things go, but that's about a normal time pace for DOT projects," Lewis said. "But the driving force for it all is funding. If the funding for the project falls into place in the time that it needs to, that means we can stick more to that scheduling."
Plans for a widening of Highway 140 have been discussed for some time as local authorities have sought to ease congestion, aid in commercial transportation and reduce travel hazards. GDOT studies included traffic counts and projected traffic counts for 20 years out.
"It's going to help tremendously in that area of Bartow County, north Floyd County and even Gordon County in many respects," Lewis said. "There's some pretty scary parts of that highway with curves and blindspots and so forth. Safety has as much to do with it as anything does. Of course the more congestion you get, the less safe it becomes."