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DOT, Braselton, developers reworking Duncan Corners traffic jams
The Georgia Department of Transportation is working with Braselton and private developments on plans to ease traffic congestion at Duncan Corners in South Hall. The existing five-way intersection will be reconfigured to a four-way intersection by moving the old Ga. 347/Friendship Road to intersect with Thompson Mill Road south of the new intersection. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

BRASELTON Time was when few cars passed through Duncan Corners in South Hall, so the unusual tapestry of roads at that intersection was more of a curiosity than a motorist’s headache.

But the area has changed drastically in the past decade or so, with cars flowing through and from strip shopping centers and large neighborhoods.

The Georgia Department of Transportation is working with Braselton and two private developers, Chateau Corners Development Corp. and Spout Springs Partners, on plans to ease traffic congestion there, with the project slated to wrap up by Oct. 31.

Some relief, however, is expected as early as Monday, when Friendship Road motorists used to traveling behind a Kroger-anchored shopping center to reach Spout Springs and Thompson Mill roads will be shifted to a four-lane stretch that now connects the shopping center to Spout Springs.

Several years ago, Bud Chandler of Chateau Corners Development built the four-lane road in the spot where the DOT plans to eventually reroute Ga. 347/Friendship Road as part of two-phase $127.3 million widening between McEver Road and Ga. 211/Old Winder Highway.

The work ahead includes installation of traffic lights at the new Friendship Road’s connection with Spout Springs and at Spout Springs Road and Thompson Mill roads.

Crews hired by the developers will improve both intersections by adding turn lanes, said Teri Pope, a DOT spokeswoman.

"We’ll have inspectors out here ... to make sure (the work) is up to our standards," she added.

The portion of what is now Friendship Road running behind Kroger won’t be abandoned, as local traffic runs on it.

It will be reconfigured slightly, as a stretch of new road will connect it to the new Friendship Road on one end. It also will join Thompson Mill on the other end but "not (at) the intersection (with Spout Springs), like it does now," Pope said.

Developers are mostly footing the bill for the project, said Pope and Braselton Town Manager Jennifer Dees.

"The town has been involved ... through the developments that have gone in there and encouraged, and in some cases required, the developer to participate with the DOT in getting those two intersections signalized," Dees said.

Braselton will pay for the decorative mast arm of the traffic light at the Spout Springs-Friendship Road intersection, she added.

"The town has agreed ... to take over the signals once they’re (installed) and pay the monthly bills on them," Dees said.

She said she believes the traffic signals and opening the four-lane stretch to Friendship Road traffic "will really open the area up for further development without having any further traffic concerns.

"The signalization really will allow the traffic to flow through and enable people to get to the retail and commercial establishments there easier."

Already under development off the four-lane road is a new Publix grocery store.

"In my opinion, Braselton is the hottest place in Georgia, period," Chandler said. "... When the economy does pick back up, (it) is going to be the spot on the map to do anything."

The area is a big commercial destination, but motorists also pass through it to head to other burgeoning areas, such as Old Winder Highway up to Interstate 85 and Hamilton Road in Gwinnett County.

Much of that traffic spins off the Spout Springs-Thompson Mill intersection.

"It is not easy to get through the intersection and there is a lot of traffic," Dees said. "... (Residential and commercial growth) really helps the economy, but people are going to avoid the area if they think it’s a traffic problem."

The widening of Friendship Road from Interstate 985 to Old Winder Highway is scheduled to begin in 2011-12. The DOT is buying the needed right of way for the project, said District Engineer Russell McMurry.