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Roadwork spurs rush to condemn

LAWRENCEVILLE - Crunched for time with the construction at Interstate 85 and Ga. Highway 316 already under way, Gwinnett County officials have initiated condemnation proceedings to get control of property to move water and sewer pipes.

The Board of Commissioners approved declarations of taking for four parcels along the interstate.

According to Public Utilities Director Frank Stephens, the department must move pipes out of the way of the construction because the Federal Highway Administration frowns on putting interstates above the water lines.

To do that, though, the county has to gain control of other property, much of which is developed into parking lots.

T.J. Way, an official with Ryan's Steakhouse, said his company didn't want to give up its property because the move could affect its future use. Plus, he said, the amount offered by the county was low considering the effect on the land.

Stephens said the declaration of taking procedures allows the county to begin its work to move the pipes while the price of the land is haggled out in court.

"We haven't reached resolution yet on the price, and it needs to be moved within a few months," he said. "We can't linger in negotiations."

The Georgia Department of Transportation began construction a few months ago on a project to redesign the interchange, including creating a flyover bridge to bring traffic from Ga. 316 westbound onto the right side of I-85 South traffic. Other improvements include a collector-distributor system with Pleasant Hill Road and the extension of high-occupancy vehicle lanes on both roads.

"They (DPU crews) have to get that moved before they (road crews) get to that time in construction," Gwinnett DOT Director Brian Allen said. "This is critical to the 316 and 85 project."