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Motorists can't drive 55 on 316

LAWRENCEVILLE - Drivers are not only being asked to slow down for road construction, but the Department of Transportation is mandating a slower speed.

Beginning Friday, the speed limit along Ga. Highway 316 will be lowered from 55 mph to 45 mph from Sugarloaf Parkway to Interstate 85.

While the DOT typically lowers speed limits while lanes are closed for construction, Ga. 316's new limit will be in effect 24 hours a day throughout the three-year construction of the new interchange with I-85.

"It is a safety decision," said DOT District Engineer Russell McMurry. "For the safety of people driving through the area and for our employees in the area, it is absolutely imperative that drivers slow down in this construction zone. There will be dozens of pieces of equipment and people working in or near 316 at all times of the day. We must maintain a slower, consistent pace of traffic."

Engineers are also considering a permanent slowdown on the interstate.

According to department spokeswoman Teri Pope, drivers are three times more likely to get hurt in a work zone than those performing the construction.

"It's not just for our safety but for those using the roadway," she said, explaining that the same 24-hour speed limit was used during the recent widening of Ga. Highway 400. "We don't do it on every project, but it's easier for the public to keep track of and know what to expect."

Driving above the speed limit could be costly, with fines doubling in work zones. McMurry said the fines could be as high as $2,000.

"It will benefit your pocket and your safety for you to slow down and pay extra attention through this work zone and all other work zones in Georgia," he said.

The I-85 and Ga. 316 interchange project, which includes the extension of high-occupancy vehicle lanes along Ga. 316 is expected to cost more than $147 million. The project is expected to be complete by Dec. 31, 2008.