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I-985 exit work wont be finished till October
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Brief storm brings rain, no damage

A brief heavy thunderstorm that hit Gainesville on Thursday afternoon brought some rain but no severe weather damage.

The National Weather Service recording station at Lee Gilmer Memorial Airport recorded only 0.08 of a inch of rain between 4 and 5 p.m. But the rain was heavy downtown for a short period though it caused no major traffic problems.

The rain did bring Lake Lanier’s water level up a bit to 1,064.56 feet above sea level, about 7 feet below full pool.

More heavy showers and thunderstorms are possible today, with a 70 percent chance of precipitation for the first full night of high school football season. The chance of rain will taper off overnight and diminish Saturday and Sunday, with highs in the low to mid 80s.

From staff reports

Because of abundant rainfall over the past month, the Georgia Department of Transportation doesn’t expect its $75 million makeover of Interstate 985 in South Hall to be completed by Labor Day as hoped.

"It put our paving behind schedule," said Teri Pope, DOT spokeswoman for the Gainesville-based district. "Most of the major components are open, but I’ve got a list of the things left to do."

Construction crews still need to finish median work so that southbound lanes can be shifted to their original spot. The lanes had been moved as part of an effort to widen and lengthen the I-985 bridge over Ga. 53/Mundy Mill Road.

"What’s left is ... shaping the grade so it drains well, dressing the shoulders, preparing them with grass and such, and then the cable barrier has to be installed," Pope said.

Last year, the DOT installed cable barriers on I-985 from Interstate 85 to U.S. 129 as a way to prevent cars from traveling across the median and hitting a vehicle going in the opposite direction.

Other work on the bridge includes finishing paving of inside shoulders and adding "rumble strips," a series of bumps on the road that alerts motorists when they have left the roadway, Pope said.

Once the southbound lanes are shifted back, "we’ll restripe where traffic is currently running," she said.

Finally, the DOT will open the southbound entrance ramp from Ga. 13/Atlanta Highway, or Exit 17.

Depending on the weather, all the work could be wrapped up in early October.

The next few days or so, however, might not be so cooperative. Showers and thunderstorms are in the forecast through Sunday night, according to the National Weather Service.

The I-985 project, which includes rebuilding the Exit 16 interchange and widening area roads, began more than three years ago, with a February 2010 completion at one point.

The two-year drought that ended earlier this year helped speed up the project, prompting DOT officials this summer to change the estimated completion date to Labor Day.

Despite the delay, traffic is humming in all directions around the project.

The DOT has opened up Atlanta Highway to four lanes between Thurmon Tanner Parkway and just beyond Ga. 53. Also, Mundy Mill Road is now six lanes between Gainesville State College’s main entrance and Atlanta Highway.

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