JEFFERSON — It took more than 20 years of use and several years of organizing, but city and county officials are finally ready to being improving John B. Brooks Road.
The $2.2 million project, approved back in 2007, is a partnership between the city of Jefferson and Jackson County governments. The city will shoulder 60 percent of the costs because the majority of the population density falls under its jurisdiction.
John B. Brooks Road is the main access artery to the city’s Walnut Fork Industrial Park, home to such industries as Mission Foods, the Seydell Companies and Unique Plastic Packaging. It is also an entrance point to the Seasons of Pendergrass subdivision.
With traffic counts already at 6,000 vehicles per day and growth indicating that traffic could increase to 10,000 trips per day, city and county officials agree that it is time to improve a road has not seen changes since the mid-1980s.
The project will include widening the two-lane roadway to include a continuous center turn lane, and also to add curbs and gutter along the length of the road from U.S. 129 back to Ga. Route 332.
As with most road projects, closures will be necessary. But due to the mix of industrial and residential uses of the roadway, city and county officials have had to devise a unique working scenario.
"In an effort to save money and to reduce the impact of the project, we will be doing weekend closures instead of closing down the entire road at one time until it’s complete," said Don Clerici, Jackson County capital projects manager.
The first closure is scheduled for 6 p.m. Friday, July 17 to allow CSX to replace three railroad crossings. Due to the amount of work involved with that portion of the project, instead of opening at 6 a.m. the next Monday, as will be the case with subsequent closures, officials are not planning to reopen John B. Brooks Road until 6 a.m. the following Wednesday, July 22.
"We are trying to give residents and businesses as much advanced notice as possible so that they can plan alternate routes," City Manager John Ward said. "We want to complete this project with as little disruption as possible."
During the course of the improvement project, which is expected to conclude on Aug. 15, 2010, project officials expect that there will be five or six total road closures.
After the railroad crossings are replaced, work crews are expected to work in four or five stages, mostly at night and during the weekend.
Besides improving safety, the goal of the project is to help boost economic development for Jefferson and Jackson. That’s why project officials have worked to ensure that existing businesses will have uninterrupted access to Interstate 85 to receive raw goods and ship completed products.
Electronic message boards and other signs will alert drivers when the roads will be closed and advise of alternate routes.
"There will be advanced signs as drivers approach the intersections (of John B. Brooks Road with state Route 332 and U.S. 129)," said Clerici. "We are following a signed, state detour route that we are hoping will provide the least amount of inconvenience."
Because the alternate routes will push more traffic into nearby municipalities like Pendergrass, project officials are planning to work with the governments of impacted areas and adjust the detour route if necessary.