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Athens Highway widening has started
Initial clearing phases could take a while, DOT says
Work has begun on a 7-mile stretch of U.S. 129 from East Hall through Jackson County.

Work on Hall County’s next big road project is underway, but motorists will need to exercise patience as the project slowly takes shape.

As part of the long-awaited widening of Athens Highway/U.S. 129 in East Hall, crews are “clearing and removing the large tree roots from the areas that will make up the new road,” said Katie Strickland, Georgia Department of Transportation district spokeswoman.

“There is an 18-month allowance of time for utilities to be relocated,” she said. “So, it’s going to be a lot of clearing and digging up tree roots for the next few months.

“Then, when they are moving the water, power and cable lines, it will look like we hit the pause button (on the project).”

The $44.1 million project, which has an April 2020 completion date, starts at Gillsville Highway/Ga. 323 and runs to the Pendergrass Bypass in Jackson County.

The work also includes construction of a bridge and approaches over Allen Creek, according to the DOT.

It’s a 7-mile stretch that completes the four-lane connection between Gainesville and Athens.

“It’s a bottleneck between (the two cities),” area resident Ronald Gee said at a public meeting last August on the project.

And, in a reference to the college football season, which is about to start at UGA, Gee said a lot of the woes stem from “ballgame traffic.”

Otherwise, Hall County officials have said the project is especially important for safety reasons — it will straighten out dangerous curves — and will help commercial truck traffic, as U.S. 129 runs from Interstate 985 to Interstate 85.

Pittman Construction Co. of Conyers has been awarded the project.

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