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Dawsonville Highway lanes open for your driving pleasure
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The Georgia Department of Transportation crossed one big item off of its to-do list Tuesday with the opening of two new lanes on Dawsonville Highway.

The widening of Ga. 53 north of Gainesville, a project that has been under construction for more than 2« years, isn’t finished yet, but the portion of the road from Sidney Drive to Manor Ridge Drive now is a divided, four-lane highway.

Teri Pope with the DOT said the lanes were opened at about 11:30 a.m. and the two traffic signals at Lyncliff Drive and Sardis Road were turned on by 2:30 p.m.

"We’re very thankful to get it open today," Pope said Tuesday afternoon. "While we were thankful for the rain we have received, we were very thankful to get it open today on our third try."

Rain in late December had scuttled plans by the DOT to complete the work needed to open the two new lanes, pushing completion to the new year.

Pope cautioned that people should drive carefully along the new four-lane highway.

"It is different; pay attention as you drive through the area," she said, noting in particular that people should pay attention to the new traffic signal. "We’ve got that new traffic signal, and within the first year (of installing a new signal) we always have at least five rear-end accidents."

A westbound section between Sidney Drive and the Jerry Jackson bridge remains just two lanes, as work has yet to be completed. That portion of the project is taking longer, Pope said, because of the retaining wall. She explained there isn’t room to open the new lanes near the bridge while work on the wall is ongoing.

"You put in the retaining wall to minimize the footprint and it gives you less space to work in," she said. "It’s too tight in there for the equipment."

In addition to the wall, she said work remains to be done on side roads, Lyncliff Drive in particular. Pope said about a mile of Lyncliff had to be relocated to create a 90-degree intersection with Lake Ranch Drive. Also, some signs need to be put up and final striping remains to be done on the entire project, as well as a final top layer of asphalt.

Regardless of the work that remains, Pope said the DOT is excited that this portion of the road has opened as four lanes, which will help ease traffic in the area.

"We’re excited to get the majority of Dawsonville Highway open for folks to use," she said. "It’s more than just a Gainesville project, it’s truly a regional project because so many people use (Ga.) 53 to get to (Ga.) 400 and the outlet malls."

The original completion date for the project was Dec. 31. Pope explained that issues with the retaining wall, as well as the contractor being bought out by another company, delayed the project.

The 3.23-mile project has cost $29.5 million. Pope said she expects the entire project will be completed by spring.