Bids in for key project

LAWRENCEVILLE - Brenda Conn is still searching for answers on a proposed extension of Sugarloaf Parkway. So news of another major transportation project - the long-awaited widening of Ga. Highway 20 outside her neighborhood - means traffic could soon look a lot different between Lawrenceville and Grayson.

The Georgia Department of Transportation received bids Friday on the long-awaited widening of Ga. 20, which was promised as part of deal with the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority in 2002.

"It's overdue, so we're all looking forward to it," said Conn, who lives on Gates Mill Drive. "But it's going to be a hassle."

DOT spokeswoman Teri Pope said the department is hoping to actually relieve traffic and not create more, so crews will construct two new lanes and shift traffic before interfering with the current roadway.

Construction plans won't be set until the DOT picks a firm next month, but Snellville's E.R. Snell Contractor Inc. is the front-runner.

Its bid came in at $26,866,151.76, the lowest of the three seeking the job.

Gary's Grading and Pipeline Co. came in a close second at $26,900,427.75, and C.W. Matthews Contracting Co. had the highest bid at $29,013,307.12.

The 3.9-mile stretch from Plantation Boulevard to Cooper/Ozora Road is the first of three phases intended to create four lanes along the entire highway from Sugar Hill to Loganville in Gwinnett County.

The DOT plans to begin buying land for a stretch from Cooper/Ozora to Ga. Highway 81 later this year, and work should begin in the next couple of years on the Sugar Hill portion, including widening the bridge over the Chattahoochee River.

Pope noted that the bid came in nearly twice the construction estimate of $14.8 million, but asphalt prices have meant nearly every road project has come in high this year. A year ago, she said, asphalt went for $50 a ton, but now the price is $110 a ton.

Conn said she and her husband tend to avoid Ga. 20 during rush hours because traffic slows to a halt.

With an open-air mall under construction nearby on Webb Gin House Road and the Sugarloaf extension getting a monetary boost from commissioners earlier this week, the traffic situation seems even fuzzier to her.

"It's horrible now, so it couldn't get much worse," she said. "We've got a lot of stuff in our area and we're trying to figure out where it's going to be. We're all looking forward to it (Ga. 20) getting bigger and relieving the traffic."