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$120 million in Hall road projects could start in 2016
3 major upgrades planned this year, DOT officials say at forum
Department of Transportation Commissioner Russell McMurry speaks at the annual Transportation Forum.

Work is nearly done on the Friendship Road widening in South Hall County, but that doesn’t mean the orange construction barrels are leaving Hall.

Area motorists could start to see work begin later this year on three major projects: Athens Highway widening in East Hall; replacement of the Dawsonville Highway bridge over the Chestatee River arm of Lake Lanier in West Hall; and Atlanta Highway widening between Buford and Lanier Islands Parkway in South Hall.

The earliest of those could be the Dawsonville Highway bridge, or Boling Bridge, a $23 million project. Construction bids could be opened March 18, officials said during a transportation forum Thursday at the University of North Georgia’s Gainesville campus.

“These bridges are 60 years old,” Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner Russell McMurry said, referring to Lake Lanier bridges in general. “Good gosh, they’re only designed to last about 50. They’ve done pretty good, but it’s time to move on.”

Also upcoming on the DOT’s agenda for Hall is the $74 million planned widening of Athens Highway/U.S. 129 between Gillsville Highway/Ga. 323 and the Pendergrass Bypass.

Right of way on the long-awaited project is in hand, officials said, so the next step could be awarding it to a contractor this spring.

McMurry, a Hall County resident, also spoke to that project’s need.

“That is a critical connection for freight mobility from Interstate 85 to Interstate 985,” he said.

Another key improvement, particularly for South Hall travelers, is the $22 million widening of Atlanta Highway/Ga. 13 between Sawnee Drive in Buford to Lanier Islands Parkway/Ga. 347.

Work could start this fall on four-lane project through Rest Haven, a small incorporated area on the Hall-Gwinnett County line, DOT District Engineer Brent Cook said.

The road would intersect with another large DOT project that has been split into several phases — the eventual widening of Ga. 347 between Lanier Islands resort and Old Winder Highway/Ga. 211.

Work has been completed on Ga. 347 between McEver Road and I-985. Widening the road to four and six lanes between I-985 and Ga. 211 is set for completion in June.

A future project would involve widening Ga. 347 between McEver and the resort.

Some 200 people, mostly area government and business officials, attended the annual forum, put on by the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce.

McMurry also said a new transportation tax system — going to a 26-cent excise tax from a state sales tax — is starting to reap benefits, along with a 5-year plan for federal highway funding.

“We’re now going to be able to deliver more projects,” he said.

McMurry said planning for widening I-985 now moves up in priority.

“We haven’t been able to think about that before. Now, in the next 10 years, we can get underway with the planning for that.”