Light summer for school-related projects

LAWRENCEVILLE - While the $150 million project to reconstruct the Interstate 85 Ga. Highway 316 interchange kept drivers busy, local transportation officials are actually considering summer 2006 a light period for construction.

Usually, while students and teachers are taking a break from the classroom, road crews are out in force, getting roadwork out of the way before school buses begin their routes.

But this year, the burden was low, said Alan Chapman, a deputy director in the Gwinnett Department of Transportation.

Only one new school facility will open next week, and only a few others needed road repairs. But officials are going to start a few more of the "school safety" projects in the coming weeks, and next summer the construction will be keyed up.

"We didn't have much this summer," Chapman said.

Chapman said crews added new turn lanes to Killian Hill Road, where Trickum Middle School has been relocated.

Another major repair happened on Cole Drive, where the middle school was housed last year next to Parkview High School and Camp Creek Elementary.

The road was closed for much of the summer so a culvert, which is similar to a bridge, could be replaced, Chapman said.

Cole Drive, which is in the Lilburn area, reopened last week, and crews wrapped up a safety project this week on Bunten Road by Dr. M.H. Mason Jr. Elementary School.

"With school buses coming through, we really had to have it open by next Monday," Chapman said. On the Cole Drive project, he said, "We did the culvert during the summer because we had to close the road."

Any day now, a contractor is expected to begin work on a sidewalk connecting Shiloh middle and high schools to the Centerville library and community center a mile away on Bethany Church Road.

The DOT is also taking bids on a sidewalk project to connect Champions Parkway to Old Norcross Road, which would benefit Benefield Elementary students, Chapman said, and another fall project will add queing lanes to Old Auburn Road in front of Dacula Middle School.

Gwinnett County Public Schools spokeswoman Sloan Roach said the school system was encountering a light year on openings because it is nearing the end of its 2002-2007 construction plan. Voters will consider an extension of the penny sales tax in November to fund the system's next set of plans.

But Chapman said the department of transportation is already planning for next summer's road work.

Then, crews will work on Kilgore Road, a Buford-area road where Patrick Elementary will be built; East Union Road, a Dacula-area street where Mulberry Elementary will be opened; and New Hope Road, which will be the location of

Lovin Elementary outside Lawrenceville.