I-85 traffic headache to worsen

LAWRENCEVILLE - The Georgia Department of Transportation's warned day of infamy has arrived.

Today, crews will close half of Interstate 85 south at a time and shift traffic on temporary lanes - the biggest traffic disruption so far in the $150 million project to transform the interchange with Ga. Highway 316.

DOT spokeswoman Teri Pope said the closure is necessary to shift to a four-lane stretch of temporary road so that crews can start building two fly-over bridges, which will take traffic from Ga. Highway 316 west to I-85 south and to Pleasant Hill Road.

"Sunday is the least traveled day, but people are going to Lake Lanier or to the mall instead of to work," Pope said.

Beginning at 5 a.m. the two outside lanes from Ga. Highway 120 to Ga. 316 will be closed, according to DOT District Engineer Russell McMurry. At about noon, the two outside lanes will be reopened to traffic but the two inside lanes will be closed until about 8 p.m.

"These closures will allow us to finish the work for a traffic shift," McMurry said. "All four lanes of I-85 south will be shifted to new temporary asphalt for about one year beginning Sunday night."

The DOT began warning drivers about the impending closure two weeks ago because officials are expecting delays.

"We didn't want you to be surprised when you are directed to the right of the existing lanes and ride on new lanes for about a quarter mile," McMurry said as a plea to drivers. "The lane closures Sunday will shift the traffic so the new lanes will begin holding traffic Sunday night. Please slow down to 55 and pay attention and there won't be any problems. We appreciate your understanding throughout the construction."

On Tuesday, crews will close the inside lane of I-85 northbound between Pleasant Hill and Ga. 316, so they can pour concrete that will become the caps of the new Old Norcross Road bridge.

The closure will be from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. from Tuesday through Friday.

Pope said that drivers should also be on the lookout for blasting.

If the necessary preparations occur and weather permits, the entire interstate, plus a part of Ga. 316 and Old Norcross will be shut down for about 10 minutes every day this week.

The blasts could occur between noon and 1 p.m. Monday through Friday or Saturday between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. Traffic will be stopped for about 10 minutes.

Pope said the blasting could occur as much as three times each week for the rest of the summer.

To check on the construction plans and lane closures, go to the DOT's Web site at www.georgianavigator.com.