Delayed equipment puts off Highway 78 median work

LAWRENCEVILLE - It's a reversal local commuters are used to.

Construction of a new median on U.S. Highway 78, scheduled to start Wednesday night, did not begin as planned.

Georgia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Teri Pope said the delay was because some materials for the warning system, such as portable message boards, cameras and a highway advisory radio system, did not arrive on schedule. The system needs to be installed before work on the road can go forward.

"Some of it's installed and ready, some of it is not," Pope said. "We expected them, obviously."

The project, which has been in the works since the early 1990s, will change the road's reversible lane system into one with a median. Once construction does begin, it will take place between 7 p.m. and 5 a.m. seven days a week.

The daily work will only take place until the laser show begins at Stone Mountain. Once the show starts, no work will take place on Friday or Saturday nights, Pope said.

But Pope said it is still too soon to tell when roadwork will start. That depends on when the equipment arrives, she said.

"I hope it's sooner, rather than later," she said. "As soon as it's here, we'll let folks know."

A groundbreaking for the project was held in September and utility work has been ongoing to prepare the stretch for construction. Once this next phase starts, the reversible lane signs will come down between East and West Park Place and Stone Drive, ending the system on that stretch of road.

While construction of the median takes place, there will be two lanes headed eastbound and three headed westbound, with a center turn lane.

As long as the project has taken, Pope said she wouldn't characterize the latest bump as anything other than a typical construction problem.

"I probably wouldn't count this as a delay," she said. "This happens during the normal course of any construction project."

Construction will take place in four phases. The second will be Stone Drive to Killian Hill Road, then Killian Hill Road to Highpoint Road and finally Highpoint Road to Ga. Highway 124. When the project is finished, the road will have three lanes in each direction, with sidewalks on both sides of the street and a raised concrete median.

The median project is due to be finished in November 2009. It will cost more than $31 million.

Pope urged drivers to call 511, a free phone service that provides real-time traffic and travel information statewide, for information about the project. Drivers can also e-mail her to receive construction updates at tpope@dot.ga.gov.