LAWRENCEVILLE - The parking lots may be congested, but two construction projects should mean shoppers have freer flowing trips to Gwinnett's three malls this holiday season.
During a briefing to commissioners Tuesday, county transportation officials said the fly-over bridges connecting Ga. Highway 316 to Interstate 85 southbound and Pleasant Hill Road will be complete by Thanksgiving.
An extra lane on I-85 northbound between Interstate 985 and Ga. Highway 20 will also be open in November, a Georgia Department of Transportation official confirmed.
"That's going to be fabulous for us," Gwinnett Place Mall spokeswoman Shelley Korenbrot said of the I-85/Ga. 316 ramps, one of which leads to the mall. "We would be delighted to have those open so it will be easier to get to the mall for holiday shopping."
According to state DOT spokeswoman Teri Pope, the southbound collector-distributor lanes, which will connect traffic from Old Peachtree Road to Pleasant Hill, will also be open, giving relief to drivers heading to Discover Mills Mall on Ga. Highway 120 at Sugarloaf Parkway.
The openings will be a major step in the $147 million reconstruction project, but Pope pointed out that the work will take more than a year to complete.
Farther north, the state department approved a "quick-fix" project to convert a shoulder of the interstate into another driving lane, leading commuters to the Mall of Georgia in Buford.
Pope said that lane would be open by Thanksgiving, and contractors won't be allowed to close lanes during the holiday shopping season. In January, work will continue on the shoulder.
"There's been a special effort to get these done by the time most people start their Christmas shopping," Chairman Charles Bannister said.
Ga. 124 widening proposed
Also during Tuesday's briefing, transportation officials announced that the county and the state devised a plan to relieve traffic on Ga. Highway 124 in the Hamilton Mill area.
Gwinnett DOT Director Brian Allen said the two will combine funds to convert acceleration and deceleration lanes used for drivers to turn into local businesses into auxiliary through-lanes. School officials have also asked for a turn signal near the stretch from Hamilton Mill Road to Pine Road.
"It should really help us get more movement through that area," he said. "It's really more overlay and restriping than anything else."
About $500,000 of the $3 million cost comes from a developer as part of a zoning condition, said Commissioner Mike Beaudreau.
"It's what the voters asked for," he said of the improvement. "It will really improve what is now serious traffic congestion."