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Cleveland Bypass work wont finish Dec. 31 as expected
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Area residents waited for years for construction to start on the Cleveland Bypass. Now that the project is underway, they’ll have to wait longer for it to finish.

“Work is very behind schedule,” said Teri Pope, the Georgia Department of Transportation’s district spokeswoman.

She said the DOT is negotiating a new completion date now with the contractor, Tucker-based Sunbelt Structures.

Pope wouldn’t elaborate on what has caused the delays, except to say the DOT and Sunbelt are working to develop a “good work plan with timeline.” She said she hopefully will have more information by late September.

The $16.8 million project, slated to finish Dec. 31, had been hampered by rainy weather since construction began in 2012, Pope said in a March interview.

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

Last winter also presented obstacles with record low temperatures, as well as bouts of snow, sleet and ice.

The project calls for construction of a four-lane divided highway around the western side of Cleveland, from U.S. 129/Ga. 11 to Ga. 115.

The new road will be 2 miles in length.

Officials did announce Monday that, as part of the project, traffic on U.S. 129/Ga. 11, will be shifted west from O’Reilly Auto Parts to the Dollar General, opening a continuous turn lane from the O’Reilly store to Hope Drive.

The shift will allow crews to have more room to raise the grade of Ga. 11.

Also, on Sept. 3, Donald Thurmond Parkway at Ga. 11 will be closed as the grade of the road is raised by 12 feet. The contractor is required to complete the work and reopen the road by Sept. 23.

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 plans to put out for bids a second phase of the project, extending it 1.73 miles from Ga. 115 to Hulsey Road. That project is estimated to cost $19.5 million.