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NE Georgia residents asking for Ga. Highway 316 improvements

ATHENS -- The state Department of Transportation should build long-promised interchanges that would eliminate dangerous intersections on Ga. Highway 316, northeast Georgia residents said.

The Athens-to-Atlanta corridor was planned as a limited-access highway with overpasses and ramps in Gwinnett County in the late 1960s. The majority of the highway was built with crossroads controlled by stop signs and traffic signals in the 1970s because of financial constraints.

More than 125 drivers have joined a Facebook page demanding that DOT officials get to work on the interchanges. About two dozen have signed an online petition.

"We need them to start breaking ground on the plans they've had for the last 20 years," said Jefferson Taffet of Athens. "It's always been a hot topic for discussions -- but that's all it's been, is discussion. We need to see actions."

In the five years after the final leg of the road was completed in 1995, 41 people died on the road, according numbers provided by the DOT.

DOT planners have had interchanges at four key intersections on the drawing board for years. The money to buy land for the projects may not be available until 2015, DOT spokeswoman Teri Pope said.

"We wish we could build those interchanges right now -- all of them," Pope said. "Funding is the problem."

Pope hosted a town hall meeting in February to debut designs for three planned interchanges. The department is compiling public comments on which interchange should be built first.

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Information from: Athens Banner-Herald, http://www.onlineathens.com