LAWRENCEVILLE -- Gwinnett's diverging diamond interchange is on the way.
Officials approved construction Tuesday on Pleasant Hill Road's interchange with Interstate 85 for the new transportation design, which shifts traffic to the left side of the road to allow for free-flowing turns onto the interstate.
The move comes less than a month after the first diverging-diamond opened in Georgia at the Ashford-Dunwoody Road interchange along Interstate 285.
E.R. Snell Contractor, which was the lowest of three bidders for the $4.3 million job, also worked on the Ashford-Dunwoody site, and officials said they have worked to learn from the construction, which is still under way.
"The Gwinnett Place Community Improvement District has worked closely with our traffic engineers on the new design, which is similar to the diverging diamond that opened recently on Ashford-Dunwoody Road at I-285 near Perimeter Mall," Gwinnett Transportation Director Kim Conroy said. "We estimate this will extend the useful life of the existing bridge by about 10 years with no widening needed."
CID Director Joe Allen said the work, which also involves new sidewalks, retaining walls and a new aesthetic look for the bridge, is part of reinvigorating the business district, which has slumped in the decades since Gwinnett Place Mall opened.
"We see this not only as an innovative transportation design," Allen said. "This is really going to be a symbol of the re-emergence of Gwinnett Place. It's something will will be proud as a community to showcase."
And the project, he added, would do a lot to help 53,000 vehicles traverse the bridge each day. He expects it could mean a 25 percent reduction in delays.
"We are looking forward to having that efficiency and that safety at Pleasant Hill," he said, adding that no problems have arisen since the Ashford-Dunwoody conversion.
The project is expected to take a year, with a break from lane closures planned for the holiday shopping season.
Later this summer, officials are expected to consider a second project to bring the design to the Jimmy Carter Boulevard interchange with I-85.