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DOT to hold open house on road widening
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Those who travel U.S. 129 between Gainesville and Athens can learn more next week about plans to widen a 7-mile section of the route.

The Georgia Department of Transportation is planning to make Athens Highway/Ga. 11/U.S. 129 a four-lane divided highway from Gillsville Highway/Ga. 323 in Hall County to the Pendergrass Bypass in Jackson County.

DOT engineers and consultants will be on hand to discuss the project at an open house 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday at the Sugar Hill Elementary gym at 3259 Athens Highway in East Hall County.

The DOT is finishing purchasing rights-of-way for the project, having acquired 202 of 205 needed parcels. Right-of-way purchases are estimated to cost $22.7 million and construction another $46.7 million. Bids are set to be received in January.

If the project is awarded in February, work could begin by spring or early summer of 2016, according to DOT district spokeswoman Teri Pope. The work could take two to three years to complete.

“This project will provide a four-lane connection between I-985 to I-85, also from Gainesville to Athens, greatly increasing mobility in the region,” Pope wrote in an email. “Safety will also be improved by separating the directions of traffic with a median, (which) virtually eliminates head-on collisions.”

Pope said the DOT will also straighten out curves and level the grade of the road, “making it a straighter and flatter road giving motorists a better view of other vehicles.”

Lanes will be built in sections parallel to existing lanes, and traffic will then be moved over to new lanes so work can begin on original lanes.

“As the original lanes are finished, traffic will be split to use one lane on each side of the median,” Pope said. “Last the additional lane in each direction will open.”

After the open house, a display of the project will be available for viewing at the Georgia DOT district office at 2205 Athens Highway as well as online at www.dot.ga.gov/PS/Public/PublicOutreach.

Residents can submit written statements on the project to state environmental administrator Hiral Patel, Georgia Department of Transportation, 600 W. Peachtree St. NW, 16th Floor, until Sept. 7.

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