Residents who live along or near Cloud Springs Road in Catoosa County and those who travel it less frequently can be forgiven if they think the road widening project there is taking forever. It is not. It just seems like it.
There is, it appears, an end in sight. A spokesman for the Georgia Department of Transportation says the 2.36-mile project that extends from Red Bud Avenue to I-75 should be completed by May 31. Maybe so, maybe not. Deadlines for the project have proved to be a moving and often missed target in the past.
The project was started in October 2007, with an announced completion date of May 31, 2009. That deadline was missed. The construction company then requested an extension to complete the work. It was granted - and a new deadline set. It, too, was not met.
A second request for an extension was granted, and another new deadline established. That was May 31 of this year and, if - if - all goes well it should be met, according to Mohamed Arafa, the GDOT spokesman, "Unless," he adds," the weather or something else beyond the control of the contractor makes it difficult to do so."
Those words hardly can be reassuring to those who have been forced to cope with the detritus of construction work for nearly four years. This time, though, there's some reason for optimism. The holdup in the past, Arafa says, was the length of time it took two utility companies to remove poles from the construction zone. The pace, apparently, was glacial. The companies just finished the work. "The construction company," Arafa says, "couldn't do its work until the poles were moved."
Now it can. The widening project, which included building a bridge across a creek, is moving toward completion. That's surely a relief for beleaguered homeowners in the area and for other drivers.
There is a caveat, though. Arafa says that Mother Nature - "they're predicting rain in the next few days," he murmured Friday - and other events "beyond the contractor's control" could delay completion of the project. If that happens, expect another extension with yet another deadline. Arafa's outlook remains positive, though.
"We hope to get it [the project] completed on time this time," he says, adding that the project is still on budget. That's a welcome - and remarkable - bit of information about a job that can't be completed too soon.