For those who travel the Talbotton Road/Warm Springs Road corridor, you probably noticed the longstanding road construction is almost complete.
And, there has been nothing easy or inexpensive about this 2.1-mile road-widening project. It took 27 years and cost about $65 million dollars.
“A pretty short project,” said retired Georgia DOT Commissioner Sam Wellborn. “But a long project in terms of its meaning.”
Wellborn spent 27 years as a Georgia DOT commissioner before retiring in 2018. And Wellborn dealt with this project in Midtown Columbus much of that time.
“It holds the distinction of being the longest project on the DOT books that never got done — until 2016,” Wellborn said. “I think it’s been on the books since 1993.”
The question is” Why did it take so long to turn two lanes into four?
“Some of the delays were definitely due to redesign, right-of-way issues,” said Georgia DOT spokesperson Penny Brooks. “There are many, many owners of property along that corridor. But we also went through a recession.”
The project went into the planning and design phase in 1993. The first public hearing was held at Hannan Elementary School on February 24, 1999.
About five years ago, bids were taken and Robinson Paving Co. of Columbus won the contract and began construction. The work was scheduled for completion next year.
The irony in this situation?
“It’s actually happening ahead of schedule,” Brooks said. “Which is kind of ironic given the overall timeline of this project.”
The cost is a jaw-dropping number.
“Sixty-five million including everything,” Wellborn said. “Right of way was $14 million. Moving the utilities was $12 million. Construction was approximately 35 million.”
The cost was driven by the difficult nature of the project, Wellborn said.
“Coming through this intersection was difficult,” he said this week as he drove through the area near Buck Ice and Coal, where Talbotton Road changes names to Warm Springs Road. “We had to really work to get by there.”
Most of the construction barrels were moved out of the roadway earlier this week. All that remains now is punch-list items.
Though it was a Columbus project, it was paid for by the Georgia DOT.
“There was nothing easy about this project,” Wellborn said. “It was probably the toughest project I have ever been involved in, as evidenced by it taking so long.”
Acquiring right of way from dozens of property owners was the trickiest part of this deal.
“That’s one of the reasons it took so long,” Wellborn said. “The department doesn’t like to encroach on people if they can help it. They can help it just by not doing the project for a while.”
It gives Columbus drivers new options.
“This project does have a major impact,” Brooks said. “There are going to be more easy ways to get to I-185 now, for an example. It connects both of the hospitals; it provides better and easier access to the university.”
Wellborn predicts it will become a well-worn path through Midtown — to and from downtown
“And I think in a few weeks when people realize this is open,” he said, “you will see a lot more traffic.”