Staff Photo: Jason Braverman The final portion of the project, a bridge over Mill Creek, extending North Brown Road, will be open in the coming weeks. Crews work on sidewalks and patching the wall along the side of the bridge on Monday afternoon.
SUWANEE -- Teri Pope usually avoids Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road at Interstate 85.
But beginning Tuesday, she has a new way to get around.
As the state transportation department spokesman, Pope said a federal-stimulus funded extension to McGinnis Ferry Road should change traffic patterns in the area, creating a new way for people to travel through busy Suwanee.
"We really think it's going to open up a lot of capacity here," Pope said.
Construction engineers have described the extension, which carries the road over Interstate 85 to Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road, as a bypass to the main thoroughfare. For people who want to get on I-85, take Lawrenceville-Suwanee. If you want to avoid that traffic and continue on to Lawrenceville, take McGinnis Ferry.
The 2.7-mile, $20.4 million extension was one of Gwinnett's projects that received stimulus funds from the federal government.
The county had paid for the engineering and land, originally planning to use sales tax funding for construction.
"It was sitting on the shelf, shovel-ready," Pope said. "Local roads can qualify for federal funding based on the traffic count and the need for the community."
Plus, she added, "it will really help our state routes and interstates function because of the congestion mitigation."
Local resident Kellie Austin said the opening is exciting, but it is also a moment for nostalgia, as the first of the extension was formerly known as Burnette Road.
The area just north of I-85 was known for being the homeplace of one of Suwanee's leading families. The home of James Jeremiah Burnette, great-grandfather of Councilman Jimmy Burnette, was once where the elementary school named after the now stands.
"Just as Suwanee has grown from a rural community of 500 people in the 1970s to over 16,000 today, the changes to the landscape and streetscape continues. These changes are a good thing," Austin wrote in an email, adding that Jimmy Burnette, who running for mayor, was involved in the planning for the extension despite the change to the road name. "Ensuring that peope can easily get where they need to go, without burdensome traffic is essentialto our high quality of life. And something that means letting go of a little piece of the past."