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78 median construction set to begin

LAWRENCEVILLE - On Wednesday, people driving down U.S. Highway 78 can stop asking when construction to convert the reversible lane system to a median will begin.

"I'm relieved that question won't be asked anymore," Evermore Community Improvement District director Brett Harrell said. "I'm anxiously awaiting all the new questions."

Tops among them, he expects, is, "When are they going to be done?"

The answer is in November 2009.

The $31.5 million project has been in the works for more than a decade, Georgia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Teri Pope said.

While utility work had already started, site work will begin Wednesday. The Evermore CID will hold a ceremonial cord cutting Friday to remove a string of red Xs and green arrows and mark the project's beginning.

The ceremony will be held at 1 p.m. at the Mountain East Shopping Center at 5295 U.S. Highway 78. Speakers will include retiring GDOT Commissioner Harold Linnenkohl, county commissioner Mike Beaudreau, Snellville mayor Jerry Oberholtzer and Ken Shiver, the CID's chair.

"We're taking the first step and making it a reality," Harrell said. "It's a big deal, it really is."

Converting the reversible lanes to a median will be done in four phases, each of which is expected to take about six months. The first will go from the Gwinnett County line to East Park Place. The second phase will continue to Killian Hill Road, the third will go to Highpoint Road and the last one will end at Ga. Highway 124.

Jessica Daron Court will also be extended, providing a parallel road to U.S. 78, and sidewalks will be added.

Pope said the project will improve pedestrian access and allow more people to better flow through the corridor, traveling through the region more efficiently. Harrell said the median project is the largest in the history of GDOT's traffic safety and design division.

A radio station with traffic information will be set up to help drivers navigate the area while it is under construction, he said, and updates on the progress will be available on the CID's Web site, www.evermorecid.org.

"It really will be a moment of excitement and relief, both," Harrell said about the start of the project. "All the hard work will finally come to fruition."