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'Flyover' bridges at 85/316 set to open this weekend

LAWRENCEVILLE - Instead of a dangerous weave across four lanes of traffic, drivers will be able to "fly" from Ga. Highway 316 to Pleasant Hill Road beginning this weekend.

Transportation officials said two new "flyover" bridges - a major portion of the $150 million project to reconstruct the Interstate 85 and Ga. 316 interchange - will be open by mid-day Saturday, if weather permits.

"This weekend will be monumental for Gwinnett County and the northeast Georgia region," state Transportation Commissioner Harold Linnenkohl said. "These new bridges will eliminate the current merge from 316 west into the fast lane of I-85 south.

"We want you to know changes are happening this weekend so please slow down, pay attention and be ready for a different view from the top of those beautiful bridges."

Crews will begin transition work at 8 p.m. Friday, closing the outside lane of I-85 south from Boggs Road to Pleasant Hill. According to department spokeswoman Teri Pope, crews will also close the existing I-85 south exit ramp to Pleasant Hill. A detour will direct drivers to exit onto Beaver Ruin Road, then turn onto Satellite Boulevard and then Pleasant Hill.

Because the new exit to Pleasant Hill will be about two miles north of the current exit point as part of an extension of the collector-distributor lanes of the highway, detour signs will remain in place in case drivers miss the new exit.

Overnight Friday, the crews will transition traffic to the ramp system. As the new bridges are opened, the existing merge from Ga. 316 west to I-85 south, which now ends in the fast lanes of the interstate, will be closed.

"We think that's wonderful," Gwinnett Transportation Director Brian Allen said. "It's something we've all worked on for a long time."

Construction will continue for another year on the interchange, which officials plan to name for former Transportation Commissioner Wayne Shackelford of Snellville. On Tuesday, commissioners approved a resolution in favor of the naming, and the State Transportation will consider a similar resolution Thursday. The move cannot become official until the Legislature considers it early next year.