Roswell’s Oxbo Road project costs soar; roadwork to resume soon

Bulldozed Oxbo Road will be realigned and open by the end of 2023, Roswell’s interim transportation director says.

Major roadwork on the project stopped in early 2021.

After numerous setbacks to the project including a budget that has more than doubled and nearly two years of no major construction on the torn road, City Council will vote Monday on an updated plan and a new $2.7 million contractor payment.

New Mayor Kurt Wilson was elected in November after an independent investigation into the road work found extreme mismanagement by city staff. He campaigned on taking ownership of the derailed project and said he plans to form a citizen transportation advisory commission to avoid future problems.

“This is a great example of mayor, council and staff working together to solve a problem facing the city, Wilson said in a statement to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It’s an amazing story ... The city has developed the Oxbo action plan (in 90 days) which solves all of the issues outlined in the investigative report, tweaks the original design, making it a better project ...”

Roswell is realigning Oxbo Road off Atlanta Street (Ga. 9) as well as nearby roads. The original estimated project cost of $7 million in 2016 will soar to $18.4 million if the additional payment to E.R. Snell Contractor is approved Monday.

More than $8 million was spent acquiring 25 parcels needed for the project. Some of those acquisitions were overpayments scrutinized during the independent investigation performed by Jarrard & Davis law firm last year. Former Mayor Lori Henry launched the investigation and was criticized by residents for the cost overruns and mismanagement.

Interim Transportation Director Dan Skalsky took over management of the Oxbo Road project following the resignation of former transportation director Muhammad Rauf in October. Skalsky was serving as the city’s director of public works.

The Oxbo realignment is a transportation special purpose local option sales tax project approved by voters in 2016. Skalsky said 81% of the project has been funded by the tax.

A $2.5 million payment to the owners of Roswell Hardware Company in 2021 for temporary use of property located at the corner of S. Atlanta Street and Oxbo Road was not from TSPLOST funds. Roswell paid Jason, Alfred and Benita White, family owners of the hardware store, a total of $5.5 million, starting with $3 million in 2017. The subsequent payment was a settlement after not returning the property at the agreed-upon time.

Skalsky said there are no remaining issues with property owners impacted by the project.

Wilson and City Council members had a look at the updated project plans during a March 29 transportation committee meeting. During a presentation, Skalsky said he expects roadwork to be done by October 2023 and the contractor will have monetary incentives to finish by July of that year.

The project’s original completion date was July 2021. Skalsky says one-third of the work is completed. Work is scheduled to restart by early May.

The Oxbo Road project is less than a quarter-mile from Roswell Town Square and would connect with another planned transportation project, the Roswell Historic Gateway that will run along Atlanta Street.

Oxbo Road and Oxbo Drive cross Atlanta Street but are not currently aligned. Project plans have included installing a traffic signal with new turn lanes at the new Oxbo Road and Atlanta Street intersection.

The transportation department’s updated plans include adding more traffic calming measures, which were sought by council members and residents, including textured pavement (to slow traffic) and an additional median on Oxbo.

The Oxbo Road Project - How we got here

The Oxbo Road intersection at Atlanta Street was dangerous

The project’s timeline dates back to 2006 when it was included in the Transportation Master Plan.

A 2011 traffic study found there were 47 crashes during a three-year period in that area where motorists converge, Skalsky said during the committee meeting.

Oxbo’s escalating budget

The project’s estimated budget was increased in 2016 from $7 million to $15.4 million due to the $5.5 million paid to the hardware store owners and a payment of $2.9 million to contractor E.R. Snell.

Roswell awarded E.R. Snell with a contract totaling $5.9 million in 2019. An additional payment of $2.7 million to the contractor is now necessary because of the prolonged delay in construction activity on the project and an increase in prices for construction materials and other items factored into contractor costs, Skalsky told council members.

Project mismanagement

The Jarrard & Davis investigation, completed last September, found delays and cost overruns were the result of several factors including the failure of Roswell to have a project manager for the Oxbo Road reconstruction and no utility relocation plan.

In conducting transactions for property, the city didn’t follow state law, the investigation report said. The investigation found properties were not appraised properly before beginning negotiations with owners.

Property purchases ranged from under $10,000 to hundreds of thousands of dollars to the millions paid to the owners of the hardware store property.

A link to a list of the properties and the amounts paid is available on the Roswell website. The investigation report is available in the Oxbo Road Project section of the site.

At least two city staff members left during the project’s most troubling times with no explanation provided to the public by Roswell officials. In addition to Rauf’s resignation in October, former city administrator Gary Palmer resigned in June 2021.