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Long-Awaited Widening Job Gets Under Way

Tue May 18, 2010 - Southeast Edition
Zoie Clift

Construction on a long-awaited project to ease traffic congestion on two major roads in Georgia is making headway after years of hurdles.

The project, which is being led by the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT), involves both widening and bridge work at Johnson Ferry and Abernathy Roads in Fulton County. C.W. Matthews Contracting Co. Inc., based in Marietta, Ga., is the prime contractor.

“This is a typical GDOT widening project,” said Chris Bennett, project supervisor of C.W. Matthews. “The project is loaded down with existing utility infrastructure and an extremely high volume of traffic.”

The $18.5 million project broke ground in April 2009 and has a 2012 completion date. Construction began during summer 2009.

Due to a population spike in Cobb County, the two roads have become major transportation corridors with heavy traffic. The roads connect Cobb County commuters from Marietta to Sandy Springs and Georgia 400. Abernathy started as a residential street but the opening of Perimeter Mall and continuous growth in east Cobb County transformed the two-lane road into a main connector between the county and the north Perimeter region.

“Utility relocations have been the biggest hurdle,” said GDOT Senior Project Manager Albert Shelby. “Also environmental issues with the National Park Service and Department of Natural Resources easements.”

Shelby said the project stands out in that they are building the project under large volumes of traffic.

GDOT has had conceptual designs for improving the corridor since the late 1980s. At the time the roads were not on the state route system so plans couldn’t move forward without local government backing. In the mid 1990s the roads were added to the system but plans were stalled again due to funding and issues stemming from the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 that affected roadway projects in the Atlanta region. After the issues were resolved, plans for the corridor were put back on the table in 2002.

According to the GDOT, Johnson Ferry Road will be widened from Columns Drive in Cobb County to Riverside Drive in Fulton County, including the bridge over the Chattahoochee, to accommodate six travel lanes, a raised median, bike lanes, grass strip and sidewalks. Johnson Ferry Road will then drop down to four travel lanes from Riverside Drive to Abernathy Road. The intersection at Abernathy and Roswell also will be improved by adding dual left turn lanes and a median at the intersection for all approaches.

Abernathy Road will be widened from two lanes to four (two in each direction), all the way to Roswell Road. There also will be a raised landscaped median, 4 ft. wide bike lanes and 8 ft. wide sidewalks.

“At the peak of the project, there will be two roadway crews performing storm drain installation and grading,” said Bennett. “These crews will be complemented by one to two bridge crews. The roadway crews will work a day and night shift while grading operations are ongoing.”

Bennett said the typical spread for roadway equipment used on the project includes backhoes, loaders, sheepsfoot rollers, dozers, smoothdrum rollers and motorgraders. As to specialty equipment being used, Bennett said the company’s bridge subcontractor plans to use barges to maintain equipment while working on the piers located in the Chattahoochee River.

“Utilities are very integral in our ability to begin our construction,” said Bennett. “Currently we have started storm drain installation while maneuvering around the existing utility infrastructure.”

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