WINDER - As growth and industry move steadily north and east, Barrow County's highway system must be ready to accommodate the increased traffic.
Russell McMurray, Georgia Department of Transportation district engineer, presented an update Tuesday on transportation projects relevant to Barrow County.
"Our biggest challenge is the left entrance ramp at (Interstate) 85 and (Ga. Highway) 316," McMurray told the 150 business owners, school board officials and civic leaders who gathered at the Winder Wesleyan Church for an early breakfast sponsored by First Piedmont Bank.
"That project is ahead of schedule and 30 percent complete."
The interchange was built in 1962 when 30,000 cars per day traveled across it. An estimated 270,000 cars now maneuver the spot, usually clogging two-lane Ga. 316 during peak hours.
Officials broke ground on the $147 million project in February, and it should be completed in December 2008. When finished, drivers will no longer deal with the left-hand merge from Ga. 316 onto I-85, nor have to swiftly cross four lanes of traffic to exit onto Pleasant Hill Road. A series of overpasses and parallel roads will give drivers easier access around the Pleasant Hill/Ga. 316/I-85 area.
The $147 million purchased 10.3 miles of barrier walls, 4.93 miles of retaining walls, 1.7 million pounds of rebar, 283,600 tons of recycled asphalt, 555 drainage structures, 12.28 miles of drainage pipe, 20.7 acres of erosion control matting, 65.5 miles of conduit for message boards and 7.5 miles of beams for 13 new bridges.
Ga. 316 HOV lane
An HOV lane, Georgia's first with barrier walls, will stretch to north of Old Peachtree Road. The Georgia DOT will pay $254.8 million for rights of ways for the lane that will cost $246.6 million to build.
"HOV lanes sound easy to build, but we have to get rid of traffic signals and build overpasses," McMurray said. "There will be no traffic signals after (Ga.) Highway 29 going south. It will make a tremendous difference in moving people."
West Winder Bypass
About 300 residents attended a Sept. 26 public hearing regarding the proposed West Winder Bypass. The project will construct a new four-lane interchange with 24-foot raised median graded shoulders at Ga. 316 and Patrick Mill Road. The road will follow Patrick Mill Road to Burson Maddox Road where it will turn west and cross Matthews School Road. A bridge will send drivers over Atlanta and Bankhead highways, then it will tie back into Ga. Highway 211 near Huntington Trail and Rockwell Church Road. An estimated 26,700 cars should travel daily across the bypass in 2029. The $83.4 million designated for the project includes a $39 million cost for rights of way and $44.4 million for construction.
Other transportation improvement projects
Construction should begin in 2009 on the $1.8 million intersection at Ga. Highway 211 and Ga. Highway 124.
"This corridor is important to both Barrow and Hall because it will link (Ga.) 316 to I-85 to (Ga.) Highway 53 to I-985," McMurray said. "Industry and shipping want good routes to these roads."
Construction will start in February 2008 on a $779,000 upgrade to Ga. 211 at Horton and McNeal Streets.
In July, workers will begin erecting a new $2.2 million bridge over Scott Creek on Ga. 211 1.7 miles south of Bethlehem. A temporary detour bridge will keep traffic moving.