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I-85 lane closures planned

LAWRENCEVILLE - So far, the traffic issues on the largest single transportation project in the state have centered on Ga. Highway 316.

That could change this week, when lane closures are planned for both sides of Interstate 85.

Other than a grueling early merge for drivers going from Ga. 316 westbound to I-85 south and a no-longer-existent ramp to Boggs Road, the impacts of the $150 million interchange reconstruction project has been minimal, several say.

But more drivers could start searching for alternative routes if the congestion worsens.

"I think we're adjusting to it pretty well," said Michael Miles, spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service, which has a mail plant on Boggs Road.

Before the ramps were built there, Miles said the mail trucks drove to Pleasant Hill Road to get on the interstate, so the transition back to that route has been easy.

"I've seen more traffic on Pleasant Hill, yes. I think it's more of a problem in the morning," he said. "But it's a minor inconvenience."

Crews are building fly-over bridges to bring the Ga. 316 westbound traffic to the right side of I-85 south, a major component of the interchange's new design.

Other improvements from the $150 million project include a collector-distributor system to Pleasant Hill Road and the extension of high-occupancy vehicle lanes on both I-85 and Ga. 316.

An official from the Georgia Department of Transportation said that traffic counts on the interstate haven't changed since construction began earlier this year.

But Duluth Mayor Shirley Lasseter said she sees a lot more traffic going through her city.

"I don't know if it's all (attributed) to 316, but that's the only thing I can think that's causing this backup of traffic," she said.

Lasseter, who commutes to Atlanta for work, said she's seen more accidents on I-85 and more and more people choosing to take Peachtree Industrial Boulevard or Peachtree Parkway to avoid the construction.

"We'll all just need helicopters soon," she joked.

But Gwinnett Transportation Director Brian Allen said he's not sure it's gotten to that point yet.

"I personally try to plan my trips around it," he said. "But it'll correct itself before long. It's not like they are going to have that crunch the entire three years.

"The good news is they are working. It's not like it's sitting still. But it is more painful than usual out there."

Allen said the local DOT is keeping an eye on local roads such as Old Norcross Road, Breckenridge Boulevard and Satellite Boulevard to see if the interstate traffic starts clogging up other roads.

"You'll see people continuing to divert, but people will go back to that once it's fixed," he said. "It's by far the best way to get around."

This week, crews will close the inside lane on I-85 northbound daily, Georgia DOT officials announced.

The closure, planned from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., will allow the workers to drive bridge supports in place for the new Old Norcross Road bridge over the interstate.

For a portion of the week, a lane in the opposite direction will also close to traffic.

Beginning Wednesday, the inside southbound lane will be closed to move equipment out of the "gore area" between the interstate and Ga. 316, said DOT District Engineer Russell McMurry.

He also wanted to remind drivers of the "squeeze" the three-year construction project has placed on drivers.

More than a week ago, the DOT permanently shut down part of a lane of Ga. 316 westbound before the merge onto I-85 southbound. The closure forces drivers to merge about 1,000-feet earlier than in the past.

To keep up-to-date on lane closures involved in the project, visit the DOT Web site at www.georgianavigator.com.