Staff Photo: John Bohn Gwinnett County officials hold a ceremony to open the final stretch of Sugarloaf Parkway extension at Route 316 on Tuesday.
DACULA -- After nearly six years of construction, officials Tuesday opened the final portion of a six-mile stretch linking Sugarloaf Parkway to Ga. Highway 316 south of Dacula.
The final $15 million portion of the project added ramps and bridges over the highway to allow for a the interchange, the southern half of which opened this summer.
"Building a new road like this is not easy, certainly not from scratch," said Commissioner Mike Beaudreau, who said he was glad to open the road on the day of his last meeting in office, since it was one of his first priorities since his election eight years ago. "We promised an awesome road by the first of the year, and we delivered."
Beaudreau said traffic counts on the previous sections have doubled since they have opened, and with the key connection to Ga. 316, they are likely to rise again.
The cross-county connector, is "a testament to the proactive, innovative ways," the local government has tackled transportation in a time when funding is waning from state and federal levels, said State Transportation Board member Rudy Bowen, who lives in Gwinnett.
"Anyone who lives and works in this area of the county ... knows it is worth, in mobility, all the pavement's weight in gold," Bowen said.
At a total cost of $78 million, most of which was footed by the county with some aid from the state, the six-mile extension creates three-quarters of a loop around Lawrenceville.
Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash said leaders were grateful for the voter support of a local sales tax to fund it.
"This road is an example of one of the things we could never have been able to do without the support from voters for the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax," she said. "You don't open new roads every day."
Officials had hoped that a regional transportation sales tax -- which voters rejected this summer -- would fund the completion of the loop by extending the road to Sugar Hill.
But Bowen and other state leaders were proud to offer another check to help the county with its needs.
After Tuesday's ribbon-cutting, Bowen and Georgia Transportation Deputy Director Todd Long handed Nash a check for $4,132,864.67 for the Local Maintenance and Improvements Grant program.
The $110 million program, which pays for paving and maintenance projects statewide, was reformulated this year, giving Gwinnett its largest allotment ever.
"We know Gwinnett Count will make great use of it," said Long, who lives in Lilburn.