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Cleveland Bypass set for Dec. 31 finish
Weather-battered road project on track
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Despite being wracked by bad weather, one of Northeast Georgia’s biggest road projects — the Cleveland Bypass — is on track for a Dec. 31 completion.

Still, “weather has slowed work on the Cleveland Bypass since construction began,” said Teri Pope, the Georgia Department of Transportation’s district spokeswoman.

Some 100 inches of rain fell on the project last year, or an average of 8-plus inches per month, and 5.55 inches fell in January and February, Pope said.

And nearly an inch fell overnight Thursday in some areas.

The obstacles keep coming when you throw in the polar vortex, snow, sleet and ice this winter.

“When snow melts, it penetrates the ground just like rain, (so it) slows work during the snowfall, melting and then drying,” Pope said.

The $16.8 million White County project, which began in 2012, calls for construction of a four-lane divided highway around the western side of Cleveland, beginning on U.S. 129/Ga. 11/South Main Street at Hope Drive, south of Cleveland, to Ga. 115 near downtown Cleveland.

The new road will be two miles in length.

In spite of the challenges, the contractor, Tucker-based Sunbelt Structures, “has not requested a time extension, Pope said.

Company officials couldn’t be reached for comment.

“Because there is so much grading work to do, the rain penetrates (the ground) and mucks up work for three or four days — or more — until the dirt dries up enough to start grading again,” Pope said.

“Grading is very susceptible to rain.”

Completion of the roadway base “helps the rain drain through and work resumes much quicker,” she said, adding the project doesn’t have a base yet.

“The middle section is almost to grade, (and we’re) hoping to start putting base down this spring, but that is weather permitting,” Pope said.

Utility relocation and culvert construction is done on the project, she said.

In addition to grading and putting in drainage structures, ongoing work includes erosion and traffic control.

White County officials and residents have long anticipated the project, as traffic gets congested on U.S. 129 heading into downtown Cleveland, especially at rush hour and during the busy leaf-watching season in the fall.

A DOT fact sheet on the project says the bypass “will open up capacity and increase efficiency of travel to the downtown retail and historic district of Cleveland by providing an alternate route for through traffic not destined” for Cleveland.

The DOT is planning to eventually extend the bypass another 2.8 miles, or from Ga. 115 to Ga. 75/Helen Highway.

Future work could include widening Hulsey Road to five lanes and three sets of parallel bridges between Ga. 115 and Ga. 11/North Main Street.

Those projects could cost a total of $28 million.