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Interstate 85 project has gotten area residents attention
The Georgia Department of Transportation got feedback last week from residents about a planned widening of Interstate 85 skirting Hall County.

With her commute to Buckhead, Hoschton resident Juanita Brandon is interested particularly in toll lanes along Interstate 85.

“Traffic has gotten worse, with more people moving farther out,” Brandon said last week during one of two public information meetings on the Georgia Department of Transportation’s planned I-85 widening.

A Peach Pass lane extension is under construction up to Hamilton Mill Road, and a striped buffer lane between those lanes and the general-purpose lanes will become a general-purpose lane north of Hamilton Mill.

Otherwise, the DOT is looking widen 24 miles of the busy interstate, skirting Hall County, with residents flocking to the meetings to talk with DOT staff about the project and look over maps.

“Is everything written in stone? This is preliminary,” DOT district spokeswoman Katie Strickland said. “And this is why we have the outreach. There may be a really big concern that is brought up … that we can address with our engineers.”

The project is slated to take place in two phases, with the first portion possibly starting in spring 2018.

One project involves construction between Interstate 985, which runs to Gainesville, and Ga. 211/Old Winder Highway. The other project calls for widening I-85 between Ga. 211 and U.S. 129 in Jefferson.

Traffic off the Ga. 211 and U.S. 129 exits feed into Hall County. Ga. 211 runs by Friendship Road/Ga. 347, which leads to Northeast Georgia Medical Center Braselton.

The project calls for three lanes where there are now two and proposes to replace overpasses at Spout Springs Road, Flowery Branch Road, Jesse Cronic Road and Ga. 332.

The overpasses would be closed, with detours in place, during construction.

Spout Springs Road is planned for widening in two phases between Hog Mountain Road in Flowery Branch and Thompson Mill Road in Braselton. Construction could begin in a few years.

The grass median from Hamilton Mill Road to Ga. 211 on I-85 would be replaced with a concrete median barrier and inside shoulder lanes.

One of the biggest concerns for residents was detours and potential traffic jams, especially with overpass replacements. To keep traffic flowing toward I-85, the plan is keep one overpass open while replacing the nearest structure.

Still, many residents agreed the inconveniences are worth getting a wider I-85.

“This needs to be done,” said Pat Robertson at a public meeting held at Mill Creek High School.

Regardless, she worries about more residents flooding the area and causing more traffic headaches — on and around I-85.

“I guess they call it progress, but I call it a mess,” Robertson said.

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