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DOT: U.S. Highway 78 median project delayed until April

LAWRENCEVILLE - After anticipating construction of a median on U.S. Highway 78 from Stone Mountain to Snellville for years, people will have to wait a few more months.

Georgia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Teri Pope said the state will not make the predicted February date of approving a contract for the project. Instead, officials are hoping to get the work started in April.

The delay occurred because the DOT has not yet purchased all of the land needed for the project, which also includes $4 million in upgrades funded by the U.S. Highway 78 Community Improvement District through a federal earmark.

Pope said negotiations with businesses headquartered in other states took longer than anticipated.

"Certainly we're ready for it to get under way as soon as possible," said the CID's director, Brett Harrell. "The issue that seems to be longer than anyone thought it would be is the acquiring of all of this right of way."

The district formed because business owners were concerned that the median would further deteriorate commerce in the already slumping corridor. Owners chose to tax themselves and lobbied Congress for help to upgrade the area.

Harrell said plans have been approved for extensive landscaping, decorative street signs, fiber-optic cables and cameras to time traffic signals and a road extension to connect businesses.

According to estimates released last summer, the project could cost $15.3 million, not counting the $4 million in upgrades, although Pope said that number is likely to increase because of rising construction costs.

A completion date has not yet been determined, but Pope said she estimates the work could take two to three years.