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Tuesday May 5th, 2015 4:18AM

Work continues as milestone is reached on GA 17 widening

By Rob Moore Reporter
MARTIN - Work is continuing on two Georgia Highway 17 widening projects in Stephens and Franklin counties, with very visible progress taking place just outside Martin near the Line community.<br /> <br /> C.W. Matthews Contracting began setting bridge beams for the new Georgia 17 bridge over the current highway just inside Franklin County midday Wednesday.<br /> <br /> The first 123-foot-long concrete beam arrived onsite via a 50-wheel tractor-trailer truck just before 11:30 a.m. Wednesday.<br /> <br /> "Each bridge beam is custom made like a puzzle piece that only fits in one place," said Georgia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Teri Pope. <br /> <br /> Once the truck was in position, that beam was attached to two large cranes, which hoisted it and then moved it over its appointed spot, where two personnel on each end aligned it and lowered it into position.<br /> <br /> Each pre-stressed concrete beam is 123 feet long and six feet tall and weighs 50 tons, Pope said. She pointed out the identifying stamp on each unique beam, signifying that beam will only work in one location on the project.<br /> <br /> There are five beams per span, for a total of 20 beams in the bridge. Weather permitting, beam setting is continuing. Motorists on Georgia 17 can expect to encounter minor delays as traffic is paced during beam setting.<br /> <br /> "This is where you can really start to see that the new road is going to kind of go off on new location, crossing the railroad and the state route and off behind the outer edge of Martin, opposite from the railroad tracks," Pope said. <br /> <br /> One interesting aspect of the project is the bridge being built not only crosses the current Georgia 17, but also the Hartwell Railroad.<br /> <br /> "It is unusual on this bridge project because we are working so close to the railroad, and in fact today setting beams over the railroad," Pope said. "We have to coordinate with them to make sure that there are no trains running during the time while we're setting beams."<br /> <br /> The widening of Georgia 17 is obvious from just south of Toccoa to the Line community in Franklin County, though it's less evident in Avalon and Martin because construction is occurring on new location. That new location work begins in the area of Hayestone Brady Industrial Park and the Currahee Campus of North Georgia Technical College and continues into Franklin County.<br /> <br /> "State Route 17 is one of those old roads that was built in the easiest way possible, so it kind of follows the curve of the earth," Pope said. "It follows the existing terrain a lot, so you're talking a lot of hills, a lot of valleys, and a lot of curves. These projects will straighten out a lot of that."<br /> <br /> For 2013, the average daily traffic on Georgia 17 was 11,400 vehicles.<br /> <br /> "Our goal is to improve safety vastly on this project by creating a straight, flat road," Pope said. "In order to do that, we're taking 17 over the existing roadway. We're also going outside of Martin to protect the historic downtown of that area."<br /> <br /> The 6.28-mile widening project that includes the bridge near Martin began on May 16, 2013, has a required completion date of May 31, 2016, and will cost $46.2 million. <br /> <br /> That project stretches from the Stephens/Franklin county line to Scott Road, and encompasses 94 parcels that were purchased for $7.9 million.<br /> <br /> The other 3.13-mile project begins at Memorial Drive (near Walmart) in Toccoa and stretches to Scott Road. It involves widening to a four-lane divided highway with sidewalks from Fieldcrest Road to Memorial Drive.<br /> <br /> For the Toccoa project, 101 parcels were purchased for $20.1 million. Work began May 29, 2013, and must be completed by April 30, 2016.<br /> <br /> C.W. Matthews Contracting of Marietta was awarded the contract for both projects.<br /> <br /> Some may wonder why the push to widen the busy highway.<br /> <br /> In the 2012 Georgia Statewide Freight and Logistics Plan, Georgia 17 from Toccoa to Interstate 85 is designated a Freight Corridor. <br /> <br /> According to GDOT, the plan identified the 50 highest truck volume locations and the most critical freight bottlenecks throughout the state. <br /> <br /> Georgia 17 also is a part of the Governor's Road Improvement Program, a system of economic development highways that are designed to connect 95 percent of the state's cities that have a populations of at least 2,500 to the Interstate Highway System.
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