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I-85 lights to be turned back on

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Stimulus funds have freed up enough money to turn the lights back on along Interstate 85.

Commissioners agreed Tuesday to use $90,000 in water resources funding for the lights, which were turned off last year. The money was freed up by stimulus dollars used to relocate water and sewer lines for various county projects, including the McGinnis Ferry Road extension, Ga. Highway 324 bridge reconstruction and Ga. Highway 20 widening, said Transportation Director Brian Allen.

Allen said the stimulus money resulted in a $6 million savings to the water resources department, but it is unclear if all of that money will be earmarked for lighting. He said the funding would likely be considered in subsequent years.

The electricity costs for I-85 are about $15,000 a month, or $180,000 a year. Tuesday's vote sets aside money for the remainder of the year.

"The Georgia Department of Transportation made the request to re-light that stretch of Interstate 85 in Gwinnett for improved visibility," Chuck Bailey of the county transportation department said.

"We understand that it's difficult to find funding for things like that these days, but it is helpful for motorists," said David Spear, spokesman for the Georgia agency. "Motorists and passengers feel safer traveling in those areas. We're happy and grateful they can (turn the lights on.)"