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Another widening project to begin for Ga. 20 in northern Gwinnett

Commissioners approved the half-mile widening project from I-985 north to South Lee Street in the Buford area on Buford Drive, State Route 20 from four to six lanes. Traffic passes by seen from South Lee Street looking back towards the Mall of Georgia on Tuesday.  (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)

Commissioners approved the half-mile widening project from I-985 north to South Lee Street in the Buford area on Buford Drive, State Route 20 from four to six lanes. Traffic passes by seen from South Lee Street looking back towards the Mall of Georgia on Tuesday. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)

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Crews cuts down trees along Cumming Highway just before the Chattahoochee River on Tuesday. The clean up work is in preparation for the widening of State Route 20. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)

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Crews cuts down trees along Cumming Highway just before the Chattahoochee River on Tuesday. The clean up work is in preparation for the widening of State Route 20. (Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan)

BUFORD — When leaders broke ground a few months ago on the widening of a stretch of Ga. Highway 20 through Sugar Hill, officials celebrated the last phase of a decade-long project to expand the highway to four lanes throughout Gwinnett.

But that didn’t mean the widening work would end.

Earlier this month, with crews just beginning the clearing work in Sugar Hill, officials signed off on another project, which would expand Ga. 20 from four to six lanes in the Buford area.

“Buford Drive is a state highway, so we are once again partnering with the state DOT to get this much-needed widening accomplished,” District 4 Commissioner John Heard said in a press release.

The new project will add to the capacity of the road from Interstate 985 north to South Lee Street, at a cost of just shy of $1 million.

“A four lane divided road, such as State Route 20 between I-985 and South Lee Street, begins to reach its capacity and drivers start to experience significant delays at a traffic volume of around 35,000 to 40,000 vehicles per day. This section of State Route 20 carries about 58,000 vehicles a day,” said Deputy Transportation Director Alan Chapman.

“When added to the through traffic on State Route 20, vehicles coming onto the roadway from I-985, Satellite Boulevard and South Lee Street create high levels of congestion on the road, causing a bottleneck through the area. SPLOST dollars and matching funds from the Georgia DOT are being used to address this concern and improve the flow of traffic.”

With that half-mile project expected to be complete next spring, it will be over long before the work in Sugar Hill, which is expected to take about three years.

Chapman noted that drivers haven’t seen any pavement added yet in the early phases of the widening to four lanes from Peachtree Industrial Boulevard over the Chattahoochee River into Forsyth County. Instead, crews working on separate state and county contracts have been clearing trees and will soon start relocating utilities to make way for the long-awaited project.

“Earth moving activities to get the sections of the new four lane divided road in place will be one of the major activities in 2014 along with detour paving to let the contractor to work in the area of the current roadway,” Chapman said, although he noted that on-site detours will allow contractors to keep Ga. 20 open during the construction.