Ga. 316 upgrades: Public to comment on project

LAWRENCEVILLE - A long-awaited project to create an interchange on Ga. Highway 316 at the entrance to Georgia Gwinnett College is back before the public in a meeting tonight.

The project, which would upgrade traffic signal intersections at Collins Hill Road and Ga. Highway 20 to interchanges, was scaled down last year in an attempt to bring it closer to construction.

Officials now consider an extension of high-occupancy vehicle lanes along Ga. 316 as a separate project, which has caused the Georgia Department of Transportation to come back before the public for comments.

"The whole idea in pulling these apart is to get the interchange built first because of growth in the area and the college," which did not exist when the project first arose, said DOT spokeswoman Teri Pope. "It's a much more efficient way of moving traffic."

The upgrade will also improve safety, acting similar to the recent grade separation project for the intersection of Pleasant Hill Road and Buford Highway, Pope said.

"The Collins Hill interchange upgrade is a critical project for Georgia Gwinnett College," college Vice President Gordon A. Harrison said in a statement. "With enrollment rapidly climbing, we need to move cars on and off campus as efficiently as possible. The design as presented by the Department of Transportation will help us meet the future needs of the college. We appreciate the visionary approach to resolving complex transportation issues in the area."

The original project was expected to cost $240 million, but Pope did not have information on the price of the scaled-down version.

Residents can give their input on the project at today's meeting, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the college, or through the DOT's Web site www.dot.ga.gov. To see project information and displays, click on public outreach and choose Gwinnett County.

While officials have already begun to purchase land for the project, Pope said the construction period has not been determined. Because of a multi-billion-dollar budget shortfall, officials are currently working on a cost-benefit analysis of every DOT project.

Pope said the project prioritization list, which will determine the time frame, may be complete by the end of the year.

SideBar: If you go

What: Public information meeting on Ga. Highway 316 upgrades at Collins Hill Road and Ga. Highway 20

When: 5 to 7 p.m. today

Where: Georgia Gwinnett College, Building B atrium