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Eyes on the Road: Roadwork to stay busy in N. Georgia

POSTED: January 5, 2014 8:51 p.m.

This new year should be a busy one for the Georgia Department of Transportation as it develops or continues work on several construction projects throughout North Georgia.

And one of those likely of interest to those traveling to tourist spots throughout the region is the Cleveland Bypass in White County.

The $16.7 million project calls for a new four-lane road starting at Hope Drive at U.S. 129/Ga. 11 and extending northwest to Ga. 115.

The nearly 2-mile project is set for completion by Dec. 31. The contractor is Sunbelt Structures Inc.

The work is long anticipated, as it is expected to help relieve congestion on U.S. 129 as it heads into downtown Cleveland. The road can especially get clogged during peak leaf-watching times in the fall.

Future work is planned on the bypass, with a second phase calling for the road to run from Ga. 115 to U.S. 129 at Hulsey Road, or about two miles.

The third, 1.1-mile phase would connect to Ga. 75 on the north side of town, headed closer to Helen.

Phase two has been estimated to cost $21 million and phase three, $9.7 million.

Also under construction this year is the $10.2 million widening of Ga. 20/Cumming Highway from Burnette Trail in Gwinnett County to James Burgess Road in Forsyth County, including a new bridge over the Chattahoochee River, and the $31.8 million widening of Ga. 20 from Burnette to Peachtree Industrial Boulevard at Nelson Brogdon Boulevard in Sugar Hill.

Elsewhere, right-of-way acquisition is under way on a major and unique-for-Georgia retooling of Ga. 400 at Ga. 53 in Dawson County, one of the region’s busiest intersections.

Plans are being developed for a “continuous-flow intersection,” initially one of several options the DOT considered to fix the traffic-clogged intersection.

The concept, realized in other parts of the U.S. but still new to Georgia, seeks particularly to ease the flow of northbound and southbound Ga. 400 traffic trying to turn left onto Ga. 53.

Those vehicles will travel into a left-turn lane set farther back than the left-turn lanes now in place.

When a left-turn signal turns green, motorists will drive across the oncoming lanes into new lanes that are left of the oncoming traffic.

Another left-turn signal then will prompt drivers to complete the left turn.

Drivers will turn right from Ga. 53 onto Ga. 400 much as they would enter an interstate, merging with traffic as they complete the turn.

The DOT has 10 of 32 parcels required for the project, with right of way costing $9.5 million, said Teri Pope, the DOT’s district spokeswoman.

That effort “is complicated because (the DOT is) working with so many corporate offices that aren’t in Georgia,” she said.

The project, estimated to cost $9.2 million, could be let for construction in fall or winter, Pope said.

Another project set for bids this year is the $34 million widening of Ga. 20/Buford Highway from Samples Road to James Burgess Road in Forsyth County.

“Work should begin this summer if the project is awarded to a contractor,” Pope said.

Highway funding bill introduced in Congress

U.S. Rep. Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ranger, and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, have introduced in Congress the Transportation Empowerment Act in an attempt to reform the federal highway funding program.

The bill would transfer almost all authority over federal highway and transit programs to the states over a five-year period, lower the federal gas tax to 3.7 cents from 18.4 cents over the same time period and enable states to receive block grants “that come with vastly fewer federal strings attached,” according to Graves’ website.

“It aims to open up America’s transportation system to greater local control, better targeted projects and a more efficient way to maintain and improve the nation’s infrastructure,” the site says.

“The bill allows states to respond to the needs of their communities and develop systems that result in less traffic, shorter commutes, access to more affordable homes, and will help families better manage the work-life balance.”

Jeff Gill covers transportation issues for The Times. Share your thoughts, news tips and questions with him:

jgill@gainesvilletimes.com

facebook.com/jeffagill

@JeffGTimes


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