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Gwinnett DOT sets record in projects

LAWRENCEVILLE - With 57 road projects worth $111 million getting the OK in 2006, Gwinnett transportation officials set a record on the number of projects "let" or approved for construction.

The amount is double what was approved in 2005.

"I think we've just added some resources and put more people out to buy the land," said Alan Chapman, a deputy director in the Department of Transportation.

Two years ago, the Board of Commissioners put pressure on the DOT to move projects from concept to construction faster so that Gwinnett's crowded streets could see some relief.

"Since day one, we have been working to get more done quicker, and we accomplished that," Chairman Charles Bannister said. "It's a tremendous effort on the part of everyone involved."

With still bustling growth, Bannister said residents may not be able to see the difference yet.

"The growth in Gwinnett County is still so much, and with that comes a lot of cars," he said. "At this particular point, we're still playing catch-up, but if we stick with the program, we'll be able to appreciate (the effort) soon."

In 2004, the DOT let 42 projects worth nearly $30 million and spent about $49 million.

In 2005 the number of projects declined slightly to 38, but the price tag rose to nearly $44 million and a total of $59 million was spent.

As of earlier this week, the county has spent $92 million on road improvements this year.

"The numbers say a lot," Chapman said. "I think it's been a banner year for us and the state in Gwinnett."

Chapman was referring to the Georgia DOT beginning three major projects in the county - the $147-million interchange reconstruction at Interstate 85 and Ga. Highway 316, the $15-million widening of Ga. Highway 120 in Lawrenceville and the $27-million widening of Ga. 20, the first phase in Grayson.

Gwinnett's DOT played a role in those projects, as well as the redesign of Pleasant Hill Road and Buford Highway, which began in late 2005.

The county projects are mostly smaller in nature, Chapman said, with a number of key intersection improvements and safety projects under way.

The highlights include:

•the widening of Ga. Highway 324 in two phases for a total of $22 million;

•the widening of Rockbridge Road from Jimmy Carter Boulevard to U.S. Highway 29 for $6.7 million;

•improvements to U.S. 29 at Paper Mill Road, which includes widening U.S. 29 from two to four lanes for $6.2 million;

•the replacement of the Graves Road bridge for $2.6 million.

Because so many projects began in 2006, Chapman said he expects a lot of money to get spent in 2007. But it's possible that the letting number may not be as high.

The highlight for the coming year is expected to be the first phase of the planned extension of Sugarloaf Parkway from where it ends at Ga. 20, south of Ga. 316, to New Hope Road.