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All eyes on diverging diamond, with local projects to follow

Staff Photo: John Bohn A diverging-diamond interchange recently opened at Ashford-Dunwoody road and I-285. Proposals for addtional diverging-diamond interchanges are being considered for the interchanges at Pleasant Hill Road at I-85 as well as Jimmy Carter Blvd. at I-85.

Staff Photo: John Bohn A diverging-diamond interchange recently opened at Ashford-Dunwoody road and I-285. Proposals for addtional diverging-diamond interchanges are being considered for the interchanges at Pleasant Hill Road at I-85 as well as Jimmy Carter Blvd. at I-85.

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Staff Photo: John Bohn A diverging-diamond interchange recently opened at Ashford-Dunwoody road and I-285. Proposals for addtional diverging-diamond interchanges are being considered for the interchanges at Pleasant Hill Road at I-85 as well as Jimmy Carter Blvd. at I-85.

DULUTH -- Just a few weeks after the opening of Georgia's first diverging-diamond interchange, Gwinnett officials are preparing for the construction of the first of two along Interstate 85.

A contract to add the unique traffic device on the Pleasant Hill Road bridge could come next week. So leaders have been keen to watch the changes at Ashford-Dunwoody Road at Interstate 285.

"I'm concerned that we are moving forward on an unproven concept," Commissioner John Heard said, adding that he may be interested in tabling the construction bid next week. "I think the timing of it is so convenient that we would be foolish to rush into something we can learn from."

During a trip to Atlanta this week, Gwinnett Place Community Improvement District Director Joe Allen made a point to drive along the new interchange -- three times -- to get a feel for the project, which switches traffic to the opposite side of the road to allow for free-flowing turns.

"I didn't notice any type of confusion," Allen said of drivers experiencing the new design. "If you follow the signs, it seems to be working. ... I went across the bridge in one movement. It's a change, but I didn't have any problems."

Faced with a growing congestion problem and no funds to replace the bridges, both Gwinnett Place and Gwinnett Village CID leaders embraced the DDI idea, which is expected to add 10 years to the life of the bridges. During the planning, Allen and others visited the Springfield, Mo. interchange, which became the first U.S. location in 2009.

Allen said he planned to meet with state and Perimeter CID officials soon to see if there were any lessons to learn from the Ashford-Dunwoody location, which is still under construction, although the interchange conversion occured in one weekend earlier this month.

Chuck Warbington, the director of the Gwinnett Village CID, also plans to get tips, since the Jimmy Carter Boulevard bridge is on schedule to be converted a few months after the Pleasant Hill one.

But Warbington pointed out that the Ashford-Dunwoody conversion was completed 12 hours before expected.

That weekend, Warbington said his office received several calls from Gwinnett Village business owners interested in learning about the impending bridge work there.

"No one had any issues with it, just wanted to be able to plan around it," Warbington said.

County transportation officials also have plans to meet with leaders about the Ashford-Dunwoody project, said Deputy Director David Tucker.

"We are working with Georgia DOT on lessons learned from the Ashford Dunwoody DDI project both in regards to construction and operation," Tucker said in an email. "We hope to gain insight in order minimize traffic impact during construction and allow for a smooth traffic transition. We will be working with the Gwinnett Place and Gwinnett Village CIDs on public outreach educational programs on how the interchanges will work and updates on the status of the projects as they move forward."

Comments

kevin 2 years, 6 months ago

Looks like mighty long backups with this new system. Just look at the lone lines waiting to turn onto I-85.

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JimmyOrr 2 years, 6 months ago

With all due respect to Commissioner John Heard, DDI's are not exactly "an unproven concept." Matter of fact, as I type this comment, there are 13 DDI's open to traffic throughout our nation. These 13 include the recently opened DDI at I-85/Ashford-Dunwoody Road. If you want to get ahead in the learning curve and learn about traffic flow through a DDI, there is a good website at http://divergingdiamond.com or type I-14/MO 13 Kansas Expressway DDI in your search engine. The DDI at I-44/MO13 in Springfield, Missouri was the first DDI to open in our nation on June 21, 2009. On Thursday, June 7, 2012, at high noon, I negotiated the DDI at I-85/Ashford-Dunwoody Road. Successfully I might add. The only negative thing, if you can call it that, I could say about my experience was that there were to many orange/white barrels still in place while various aspects of construction within the DDI continued. I discussed this concern with my good friend and great American, Chuck Warbington, this past Tuesday. I recommended to Chuck that when the DDI at I-85/Jimmy Carter Blvd. is open to traffic to eliminate as many of those orange/white barrels as possible to better facilitate the flow of traffic pending completion of all construction work. Some look on DDI's as a temporary "quick fix." However, after studying the DDI concept online and actually negotiating one, I have come to the conclusion that a DDI could well serve as a permanent. fix.

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Katrina 2 years, 6 months ago

Thanks for the website--pretty interesting stuff!

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LilburnLady 2 years, 6 months ago

I applaud the Gwinnett Place and Gwinnett Village CIDs for helping to pay for these projects and mostly for presenting them to the Gwinnett DOT as a viable option to get traffic moving on Pleasant Hill and Jimmy Carter. I'm also happy that they are going to get this accomplished before Gwinnett County signs a contract with Skanska for the extension of Ronald Reagan Parkway as a toll road.

The Gwinnett DOT's idea to alleviate the traffic congestion at Pleasant HIll, was to build a $330 million dollar (estimated cost) extension to Ronald Reagan Parkway to divert commuter traffic away from that area. Gwinnett County would buy the land needed for the extension, lease that property to Skanska and Skanska would pay to build the road and collect tolls. Of course, this "public-private partnership" with Skanska USA would require Gwinnett County to sign a contract agreeing not to do any transportation improvements in that corridor that might take traffic off of the new RR Pkwy extension. Why you say? Skanska's concept is to make the RR Pkwy extension a toll road that would tie into the HOT Lanes on I-85 so if Gwinnett County decided to try to ease traffic congestion in the immediate vicinity, it might take some traffic off of the toll road and make the toll road less profitable for Skanska. So, if and when Skanska begins construction on the RR Pkwy extension, improvements such as the DDI and/or a new interchange at Pleasant Hill would be prohibited under Skanska's contract with the county.

Skanska has been "studying" this extension for over a year now. Your county commissioners just recently signed off on extending Skanska's "study" of this extension for another year. When Gov. Deal became educated about how local DOT's hands would be bound if he signed the "public-private partnership" contract for the HOT Lanes on I-75 (a 50-year restriction on any competing traffic improvements in the area), he passed on the contract and said it was in the taxpayers best interest to pay for it ourselves so we could maintain control over traffic improvement decisions in the area. Considering that development, Gwinnett commissioners are now the only local government still holding out the "public-private partnership" boondoggle as an option.

Thank you to the CID for getting this done so quickly. Once Gwinnett County signs a contract with Skanska, it will mean an end to any future improvements to surface traffic flow in that area for many years to come.

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Katrina 2 years, 6 months ago

Thanks for the info. I don't like toll roads, but what's even worse is the county signing away the right to do competing traffic improvements in the area for years and years!

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GinaG 2 years, 6 months ago

"I'm concerned that we are moving forward on an unproven concept," Commissioner John Heard said, adding that he may be interested in tabling the construction bid next week. "I think the timing of it is so convenient that we would be foolish to rush into something we can learn from."

With due respect, Commissioner Heard, your "hesitancy" fell instantly on deaf & frustrated ears for this reader. Since you wish to "table," I thought it might be useful to provide some summary and useful tips to locate the AVAILABLE information on diamond diverging interchanges, if you require some additional review.

The information has been provided in both public forums and in various articles, proposals, reports, etc. These in-depth documents were commissioned by internal and external resources. I know this because as a public Gwinnett citizen, I've had them shared with me and my neighbors.

Feel free to google "diamond diverging interchange gwinnett" - especially useful for your perspective, the GWINNETT COUNTY WEBSITE even took the time to provide thorough info. There are also some other media sites which offer good detail and maps, and even a few links which provide some useful video and links if for whatever reason you still don't have time to read it all. Our simple public reports actually gave a lot of credibility and facts while you should be getting the newest request for information and being briefed. Again.

Sir, understand we're not rushing into anything - this proposal and the diverging diamond discussion have been in concept and review for a little over a year. Whether you knew about it from DAY 1 or just found out about it last week, there is plenty of info to catch up, even the most out of touch, citizen up to date. The studies have been done in the familiar boundaries of Gwinnett AND, as JimmyOrr shared above, in several other STATES and CITIES for proper pro/con comparison. Perhaps we could send you a Gwinnett Daily Post paper AND link for follow-up to this article which also displays associated information and links by a helpful and trusted media source.

Mr. Heard - before you are quoted again in another media outlet - Please know, I am determined as a citizen to let you LEAD as an ELECTED official in my County - if you can prove it to me and my fellow citizens in Gwinnett. We need the respect that you will complete your homework as I'm expected to do MINE everyday at my JOB. In all fairness, I can deduce that both of us have expectations, which are not much different about completing assignments. Kindly, stop making excuses for TABLING something that clearly has been planned, developed,and explained properly. In case you didn't remember, the County is feeling a little challenged about the word "leadership." The public is not oblivious - they do their jobs, so at least give us the satisfaction that you are at least READING for yours.

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apsLilburn 2 years, 6 months ago

"Faced with a growing congestion problem and no funds to replace the bridges"

Someone please tell me where the tax, either federal or state, on every gallon of gas is spent. I thought the tax was for maintaining and (re)building the nations bridges and roads.

Please vote no on the politicians transportation folly July 31.

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Reason 2 years, 6 months ago

I watched the TV news last night. And what did I see? The a bunch of well connected supporters and high level politicos, smoozing on a high-rise roof top, drinking cocktails, touting the benefits of this NEW TAX referendum for the "general public" to vote on. And I wondered how many were sent invites to this shindig, while the masses, A.K.A. general public sat in traffic without a peachpass trying to get home to their loved ones. Too bad they can't travel on the former HOV lanes that their TAX money already paid for! This will be remembered (GADOT and elected folks that should have spoken up about it to represent your constituants), in July. You are supposed to serve the public interest, not certain interested public firms. At this time in our history, it may be wise to maintain the cracking pavement and soon to be failing infrastructure, then building the equalivant of a grounded monorail to join more useless crap we don't need for the benefit of developers. Put the tax dollars to repair what we have, until the economy improves. This is not the 90's and it is time to maintain, or make do with what we have. Quit trying to polish a turd to make a flower with our scarce funds!

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Reason 2 years, 6 months ago

Someone sounds ticked, because the proposed parkway route may run behind their house. I am curious as to the precentage of taxpayer funds vs. CID funds it will take to cover the spraying of paint on the road to confuse some a small segment of motorists to reverse lanes. I really hope this is safe. I do not see a problem for "average" motorist to nagivate it, but the current level of distracted, don't give a rip drivers seems to be an issue under standard circumstances here in Gwinnett. I applaud Mr. Heard in this instance, to see how things progress elsewhere under the same road/traffic conditions. Then any unforseen and exposed issues could be dealt with on the drawingboard, instead of after-the-fact thus, more expense to the taxpayers. Kind of like, say.. concept and reality! It would not hurt to give it a little more time to investigate the outcome of the recently completed project. Ever notice that our taxed income seems to pay for quite a bit of corprate endeavours? P.S. The proposed parkway extension would benefit those on the eastern side of the county to get to I-85, not just across, or off it at a major highway intersection. Later, the parkway would continue to Norcross and Duluth. Some might prefer to get to the interstate and points beyond and not have to sit at a bunch of traffic lights on Pleasant Hill Road.

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Katrina 2 years, 6 months ago

I was wondering if it would be too confusing for drivers, but it seems to have a good safety record elsewhere--check out the website that JimmyOrr mentions in his comment above.

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LilburnLady 2 years, 6 months ago

Reason, No the proposed extension to the parkway as it is currently proposed, will not come anywhere near my house or neighborhood. My concern is that current ESTIMATES are that it will cost around $330 million dollars to build 3 miles of road. That's over $100 million dollars per mile. The reason it will cost so much? The entire length of the extension is to be elevated highway. It will be elevated above the Gwinnett Place area on the eastern side of I-85 and it will bisect some neighborhoods closer to I-85.

My primary opposition to this is the contract clause that will prevent Gwinnett county from doing ANY traffic improvements in the Gwinnett Place area that might take traffic off of the tolled extension for the next 50+ years. That means no upgrades in signals, no intersection upgrades, no widening of streets or even timing of signals. I just don't see that as being in our best interests to sign that away so that a private company can make a profit? Nothing against making a profit, just not sure that taxpayers and governments should have to sign away their sovreign rights to an entire transportation corridor for 50+ years in exchange for a single road?

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