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Despite setbacks, Highway 324 project still on track

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman. Construction continues on Ga. Highway 324 as crews work to widen the road.  Despite delays -- and even a tornado -- the project is still on schedule to be completed by the summer of 2012.

Staff Photo: Jason Braverman. Construction continues on Ga. Highway 324 as crews work to widen the road. Despite delays -- and even a tornado -- the project is still on schedule to be completed by the summer of 2012.

BUFORD — Steel and concrete aren’t the only elements coming into play during construction of the long-awaited new Ga. Highway 324 bridge over Interstate 85. In the past month, brutal weather has affected the work.

Despite delays — and even a tornado — the project is still on schedule to be completed by the summer of 2012, said Teri Pope, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Transportation.

While a Nov. 30 twister severely damaged dozens of homes in the nearby Kirkstone subdivision, the powerful storm caused only a minor disruption to the bridge work, Pope said.

The road and the bridge were spared, while signs were blown over and steel two-inch square posts were bent over by the strong winds. Construction barrels were found as far as two miles away, but crews had extra signs so they were able to begin work again soon.

“Thankfully no damage to the permanent parts of the road,” Pope said.

Mother Nature struck again, as crews began to set bridge beams over Interstate 85 a few weeks ago.

With a crane ready to move the heavy beams into place, officials had planned to work at night to cause as few disruptions to traffic as possible.

But a cold front sent temperatures into the teens, and blustery winds made the task impossible under the cover of darkness. Instead, crews had to work during the day on one set and delay the work on another. The final beams were placed just in the past few days.

“Our construction season is March to November, so we expect work to slow down December through February and it has,” Pope said. The weather issues are “nothing unusual,” she added.

The bridge widening, which comes a couple of years after construction to widen Gravel Springs Road on both sides of the interstate, is about 42 percent complete, Pope said.

In the coming months, work will continue on building the new parallel lanes of Ga. 324, Pope said of the $11.2 million stimulus-funded project. Those lanes are expected to be finished in the spring. Traffic will then be shifted, so contractor Strickland and Sons Pipeline Inc. can work on the existing lanes of the road.