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DOT: McGinnis Extension project a success

SUWANEE -- Before the McGinnis Ferry Extension opened, Jimmy Burnette remembers traffic coming from Lawrenceville to Suwanee caused such a problem, he'd have to postpone appointments.

"Before this opened up," said, Burnette, Mayor of Suwanee. "I would call and say, 'I'll see you in the morning,' because it took so long."

The long-awaited project was first discussed about 10 years ago when a Motorola project was mentioned for the Opus land, and state-level fast-tracking was mentioned, Burnette said. But it became part of motorists' routine this year as it passed the year mark since it opened in August, 2011.

The four-lane extension to McGinnis Ferry Road, which formerly ended at Satellite Boulevard, was extended over Interstate 85 to meet Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road south of the interstate.

The "shovel-ready" federal stimulus project cost $20.4 million.

The county had paid for the engineering and land, originally planning to use sales tax funding for construction.

The project itself is another example of the growth in and around Suwanee. The first part of the 2.7-mile 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 Jimmy Burnette, was once where the elementary school named after the family now stands.

"As the area grew, we needed to move more and more traffic," Jimmy Burnette said.

Assessing the success of the project for city and county officials is difficult because traffic counts are only measured every two years, said Gwinnett County Director of Transportation Kim Conroy.

Conroy said there isn't a formula to determine traffic counts compared with money spent on a given project, but he compared it with another Gwinnett project.

"It's a good expenditure of money," Conroy said. "Just like Sugarloaf, we're finding more and more people using that. Going out of their way to access Sugarloaf in Dacula. It would be difficult to say because we spend this, but we get this many cars, it fits in formula and this is how it rates."

For his part, Burnette said it has improved the side of town that's grown recently, and some new businesses have opened, which created more traffic.

"It has relieved some," he said. "You see more and more traffic over here on McGinnis Ferry. As it's progressed, it's made it easier to negotiate this side of town."

While traffic counts aren't available, Conroy said there have been increased service requests and questions that indicate the road is being used. He's also noticed relief on the I-85-Lawrenceville-Suwanee interchange.

"That was what it was intended to do," Conroy said. "Get across 85, and not use 85, instead of going over the bridge. We think it's a success from what we've seen going out there."