Construction of a roundabout at Highway 144 and Belfast River Road is set to begin Thursday under a revised schedule by the contractor.
The timetable county officials accepted Monday from Preferred Materials Inc. also extends the deadline to complete the project by three days, to July 20.
“You will see actual dirt being turned Thursday,” County Administrator Ben Taylor said. “Thursday and Friday will be the bulk of (the work).”
Adding three days to the deadline is not a major concern to Taylor. What matters, he said, is that the roundabout is completed prior to the start of the school year.
Two schools — Richmond Hill Middle and the new McAllister Elementary — are near the roundabout. Preplanning for teachers begins July 27, and the first day of school is Aug. 3.
“Our goal is to be done before those teachers go back for planning days,” Taylor said. “The construction company is still really confident they’re going to be able to make it.”
Bryan County Board of Commissioners Chairman Jimmy Burnsed added, “There’s no doubt it’ll be done before school starts.”
The contract includes financial penalties for Preferred Materials if the work is not “substantially complete” by July 22, Taylor said.
One lane of Highway 144 will be closed at a time during construction from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. each day, according to Taylor. Both lanes of traffic will be open at all other times, including the morning and evening rush hours, he said.
Signs alerting drivers to the construction zone already are posted. Electronic signs will be activated when the construction begins, Taylor said.
The grading and other site work at Highway 144 and Belfast River Road were completed last month. The contractor asked to delay the paving and striping of the roundabout until after the Fourth of July so the work would not coincide with the holiday traffic.
Burnsed initially was skeptical of the tight timeframe. However, he said he was appeased when the contractor explained that not much new paving will need to be put down in addition to the existing asphalt at the intersection.
Roundabouts are designed to keep traffic flowing more efficiently than a traffic light would, particularly during peak travel times. It is set up for drivers to pull up to the circle, wait until it’s safe to enter, then drive around until exiting the circle at their desired street without stopping again.
“The only issue is to get it done before school starts and to sort of let people practice on it before they start hauling kids in there,” Burnsed said. “If they get it done by the 20th, that will give people (two weeks) to get used to it.”
Preferred Materials was awarded with contract with bid of $167,822. The Georgia Department of Transportation will pay $100,000 of the project cost, and the county will cover the rest.