Drivers in Columbia County, Ga., could see construction begin in March to widen more of Furys Ferry Road.
The $50 million construction project is expected to ease traffic congestion along one of the county's busiest corridors.
Bearing in mind that with engineering projects "the first 10 percent and the last 10 percent are the most difficult," said Steve Exley, the county's deputy director of engineering services, adding that "in design, we're in that 10 percent."
The project focuses on the 3.7-mi. stretch of Furys Ferry from its intersection with Evans Road to Locks Road to the Savannah River. Designs call for the widening of Furys Ferry to four lanes between those roadways to the intersection with Hardy McManus Road.
That latter road section will have a raised, landscaped median, as well a paved 5-ft.-wide sidewalk on the northbound right side of the road and a wider shared-use path on the other. It will be like what's already been completed on Furys Ferry from Evans to Locks Road to the Richmond County line.
Only "minor widening" will occur from Hardy McManus to the river, with no sidewalks, Exley said.
"The goal in that section is to overlay the existing road to put in some turn lanes wherever we need to and put in a six-foot paved shoulder to give bicyclists room to ride down to the South Carolina side," he continued.
Perhaps the biggest change to Furys Ferry will be the Hardy McManus intersection. Currently a modified T, it will become a multilane roundabout — a traffic feature that draws mixed reviews among residents who offer public comments on proposed road projects.
"It's a big swing," Exley said. "Before the project starts it's negative, and then it swings to a big positive."
The roundabout on Furys Ferry will be in addition to three others expected to be installed in the next few years along Hardy McManus, according to Exley.
The other roundabouts will modify three busy Hardy McManus intersections — with Dolphin Way, at Riverside Park; with Aylesbury Drive, at the Stratford subdivision; and with Halali Farm Road.
The Hardy McManus Road project is expected to start in late 2023 or early 2024, Exley said.
Another modified intersection will be at the corner of Furys Ferry and Southern Pines roads. While it won't have a traffic light, it will become a high-T or continuous green-T intersection. That will allow easier right and left turns on and off both roads.
Exley said that Southern Pines motorists turning left will make use of a protected acceleration lane sending traffic onto northbound Furys Ferry.
As of late October, the county had coordinated with utilities along the route and obtained state and federal environmental permits. Of about 190 land parcels that must be acquired from owners to gain right-of-way to allow construction, only four have yet to be bought, explained Exley.
The construction contract might be put out for bid during the Christmas holidays, but more likely will be advertised in January, he noted. Allowing three or four weeks to advertise, bids could be opened Feb. 1, 2021.
"And then, assuming that we're within budget, we'll go ahead and award it, I'll say, the latter part of February, which will give us a March 1 start date," Exley said.