Gwinnett interstate project ranks No. 6 in nation

LAWRENCEVILLE - The several square-mile construction zone that causes daily traffic headaches in Gwinnett is drawing praise nationally.

The $147-million reconstruction of the Ga. Highway 316 interchange for Interstate 85 is listed as the No. 6 project in North America by Roads and Bridges magazine.

"I-85 and (Ga.) 316 is perhaps the most complete road project in the country," said Bill Wilson, the editor-in-chief of Roads and Bridges, a trade magazine. "It integrates an aggressive managed lanes concept, which is the future of traffic management in the U.S."

By managed lanes, Wilson is referring to the Georgia Department of Transportation's design to use High-Occupancy Vehicle lanes to encourage carpooling and collector-distributor lanes to take local traffic short distances without encountering commuting traffic.

The three-year project was intended to take traffic from Ga. 316 west to I-85 south on the right side of traffic, but is also fulfilling other local needs, including the extension of the HOV system for 14.5 miles on I-85 and beginning them for 3.1 miles on Ga. 316.

The project was sent back to the drawing board several times, and in its last version, officials dedicated a lane from the I-85 entrance ramp at Pleasant Hill Road straight to Ga. 316 and another from Ga. 316 west to Pleasant Hill, so drivers would never have to enter I-85.

"We at Georgia DOT feel the I-85 and (Ga.) 316 reconstruction and HOV lane extension project certainly deserves to be included in the top 10 major projects in the country," DOT Commissioner Harold Linnenkohl said. "Given the high traffic volumes on I-85 and State Route 316 and the plan to extend our HOV system this project is one of our top priorities to address congestion.

"We appreciate the involvement of the Federal Highway Administration and Gwinnett County as we worked through the design of the project. Thus far we are extremely pleased with the contractor's performance in delivering this project."

In Roads and Bridges' sixth annual Top 10 Competition, the magazine reviewed more than 30 road projects ranging in cost from $300,000 to $700 million. This is the first time a Georgia project made the list.

For the entire list, go to www.roadsbridges.com.