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T-SPLOST projects outside of Gwinnett could impact local drivers

AUBURN -- With a town splitting two counties, Auburn Mayor Linda Blechinger has been splitting her time between negotiating rooms, working on transportation projects in two vastly different regions.

With transportation sales tax proposals on ballots next year throughout the state, Blechinger has to keep her eye on two -- the Atlanta region for Gwinnett and the Northeast Georgia region centered around Athens for Barrow.

After all, a driver doesn't care if he has crossed a regional boundary line.

"Both Gwinnett and Barrow counties will directly affect the city," Blechinger said.

On opposite lists are key projects for both entrances to the city -- Kilcrease Road from Ga. Highway 316 on Barrow's list and an interchange at Ga. Highway 324 on Interstate 85 is on Gwinnett's.

Gwinnett Chairwoman Charlotte Nash had a big role in Atlanta's regional roundtable, but she still kept an eye to the east, since many Gwinnett drivers leave the county for neighbors such as Barrow, Walton and Jackson counties.

And while Gwinnett officials were lobbying for a transformation of local intersections on Ga. 316 to interchanges, the road was also the talk of the roundtable in Athens, where the state route ends.

"(Ga.) 316 is the obvious connection between Gwinnett and Barrow counties," Nash said of the road, where long stretches end in traffic lights, causing one of the worst safety problems in the area. "It scares me to death. There have been some very bad accidents."

In addition to the interchanges scheduled for Gwinnett at Hi-Hope/Cedars Road, U.S. Highway 29 and Harbins Road, Barrow's list would continue the limited access.

As part of the West-Winder bypass project, the intersection at Patrick Mill Road will become an interchange, and the list includes the conversion of intersections at Ga. Highways 81 and 11.

The sales tax, if passed, would partially fund the projects and state and federal funds would make up the rest, according to officials.

Another major project just outside of Gwinnett that made the cut on the Northeast Georgia Regional Roundtable list include an extension of the Ga. Highway 20 widening that has been going on in southern Gwinnett for years.

If the sales tax passes, the work would continue in the city of Loganville, creating a pair of one-way streets out of Main Street and C.S. Floyd Road

"It'll help traffic flow efficiently through the area and not wipe out the historic area," said the Georgia Department of Transportation's Teri Pope.

In Braselton, projects on sales tax lists include widening Ga. 211, creating a four-lane divided highway, and an extension to Braselton Parkway, which will create a road parallel to I-85 from Ga. 211 across from Chateau Elan's hotel to Jesse Cronic Road.