Construction on the Sugarloaf Parkway extension can be seen along Ga. Highway 316. The project extends Sugarloaf Parkway six miles from Ga. Highway 20 to Ga. 316.
LAWRENCEVILLE -- That last half-mile will make all the difference.
For four years, construction crews have been digging, laying asphalt, striping and more to build the six-mile extension to Sugarloaf Parkway that will create a loop around Lawrenceville.
All that remains is the last six-tenths of amile piece connecting the road to Ga. Highway 316.
Now, drivers are watching the interchange take shape.
"All three sections opened ahead of schedule so far, and they are making really good progress on the final piece too," said Alan Chapman, the Gwinnett Department of Transportation deputy director, on the construction of the largest project the county has ever undertaken without help from federal funding.
The final $15 million piece is expected to convert the parkway from carrying local traffic to the suburban neighborhoods outside Lawrenceville to becoming a key commuter path.
While he does not have traffic counts, Chapman said usage of the extension has increased since the first section opened in February of 2010.
"I think a lot of people have found it," he said, adding that officials expect so much more when the final section is complete. "I really think that that's the key, getting it all the way from (Ga. Highway) 20 to 316."
After months of earthmoving and preparing, crews are now working to set beams for the bridges near Ga. 316. The site changes each week.
"A big part of the project is getting the road over 316," CHapman said, pointing out that the ramps on and off 316 will be complete by late summer 2012, but the ramps on the northside of the highway will take until the end of next year.
He pointed out an expanse between the two bridge posts currently on the highway, where another section of Sugarloaf could go, if funding is approved for another extension as part of a proposed regional sales tax on ballots next year. The tax could provide the money to continue the parkway around Lawrenceville's east side to Ga. Highway 20.
"The bridge was designed to allow for a future extension, if phase two is funded and built," he said.