DOT to award U.S. 23 project

ATLANTA - Rebuilding one of Gwinnett's most tangled intersections will cost about $3 million more than expected, but officials are hoping to quickly sign a contract to bring relief to the intersection at Pleasant Hill Road and Buford Highway.

State Department of Transportation spokeswoman Teri Pope said the numbers are likely higher than DOT's $31.6 million construction estimate because of rising petroleum costs and steel and concrete shortages.

The low bidder for the contract is E.R. Snell Contractor, a Snellville-based firm that set the price at $34,605,262.72. Three other companies - Archer Western Contractors Ltd., APAC-Southeast Inc. and C.W. Matthews Contracting Co. Inc. - submitted proposals for the work. The highest bid was $37.9 million.

"We'll review the low bid to see if it meets the standards. If it doesn't, then the low bid will get the award," Pope said.

The decision will likely come in two to three weeks, and the work could get started six to eight weeks later, she said.

According to plans, crews will tunnel Pleasant Hill below U.S. Highway 23 and a nearby railroad crossing.

Stephen Kepes said he's been waiting for relief since he moved to the nearby Muirfield Square subdivision five years ago.

"The progress is great, but we're still three years away from relief," he said.

Pope said the DOT estimates construction will take two-and-a-half to three years. When the contractor is chosen, she will be able to release the expected completion date.

Because of the scope of the project, the contractor will be required to build temporary detour lanes and much of the work will be scheduled for nights and weekends, she said.

"It's not going to be fun and pretty," she said of the construction period.

Kepes agreed, saying he already takes backroads to avoid the intersection.

With construction expected to begin about the same time for the Interstate 85 at Ga. Highway 316 intersection, he said traffic could be a nightmare.

"It all depends on how good the detour lanes are," he said. "That's what I'm afraid of."

Bids for the I-85/Ga. 316 project came in about $50 million more than the DOT's construction estimate of $100 million last month. Officials are expected to make a decision on that contract soon.