LAWRENCEVILLE -- Georgia's third diverging-diamond interchange will soon be under construction, after the approval of a nearly $6 million bid Tuesday.
But more importantly for drivers, traffic could soon be clearer along Jimmy Carter Boulevard at Interstate 85.
"It removes that doubt of whether it will take 45 minutes for me to get here or an hour and 10 minutes," Commissioner Lynette Howard said of her drive from Peachtree Corners to the county seat in Lawrenceville. "You never know if it'll back up."
With crews currently working on a similar project at Pleasant Hill Road, the traffic innovation moves cars to the opposite side of the road for the bridge over the interstate, allowing for free-flowing turns.
Leaders say the change is a stop-gap measure, since a new bridge will be needed in about a decade, but until then, they say, the new interchange could help ease traffic.
Howard, who described herself as a "doubting Thomas," drove through Georgia's first diverging-diamond, which opened along Ashford-Dunwoody Road at Interstate 285 last year, to test the operation. "I had never gone through that intersection so smoothly," she said.
Chuck Warbington is executive director of the Gwinnett Village Community Improvement District, a group of business owners who voted to tax themselves to improve the area, which was the first to experience Gwinnett's transformation from rural to suburban growth decades ago.
He describes the project as a "catalyst" to revitalize the once-prosperous corridor.
"This creates a gateway not only to the CID but to all of Gwinnett along the interstate that has 250,000 cars a day," Warbington said, describing a modern aesthetic design the CID is paying to have included in the project.
Those enhancements, along with sidewalks and lighting also funded by the quasi-governmental organization, make up more than half of the $1.7 million in excess costs compared to the Pleasant Hill work, expected to switch to the new flow this summer. Gwinnett Transportation Director Kim Conroy said a state lane enhancement along I-85 between Jimmy Carter and Indian Trail and work on a nearby intersection with Goshen Springs Road also tied into the bigger price tag.
Warbington also pointed out that Snellville's E.R. Snell Contractor was chosen as the low-bidder for the job, giving the local company the construction all three of Georgia's diverging diamonds.
Gwinnett Chairwoman Charlotte Nash said the idea is much more cost-effective, giving more time for the bridge replacement, that could cost as much as 15 times more.
"It's a very innovative way to approach that," Nash said of the work, expected to be complete by spring 2014. "We're all waiting anxiously to see it."