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Preparation work under way for I-985 sign replacement
Current signs aren't reflecting well in low light conditions
Alexander Bright, left, and Michael Cassidente, both with Sheets Construction Co., prepare the concrete base for a new sign being installed along Interstate 985. - photo by Tom Reed

Crews have started working on eventually replacing all Interstate 985 signs, a project that motorists should really begin to notice this summer.

The 10-year-old signs now in place "aren't reflecting (well) to the driver ... in low light conditions," said Kathy Zahul, state traffic engineer for the Georgia Department of Transportation.

"The signs may look fine during the day but in low light conditions, they can be difficult to see. (They) will be more visible from a longer distance, allowing motorists to read them from farther away.

"This gives drivers more time to make driving decisions that improves safety for everyone."

The DOT is spending $2.1 million on the project, which extends from I-985's junction at Interstate 85 to its end north of Exit 24. The agency also is replacing signs along I-85 from Gwinnett County to South Carolina — broken into two phases — at a cost of $2.2 million.

The work eventually will be done statewide.

"It's keeping up with new (federal) specifications that we're required to use," said Teri Pope, spokeswoman for the DOT's Gainesville office. "It's part of our funding and (infrastructure) life cycle, just like bridges have a lifespan and we plan on replacing them."

The work began on interstates 985 and 85 as they have some of the oldest signs in the state.

"These signs were (last) replaced when the exits were renumbered," Pope said. "They used to be sequential and now they are based on mileposts.
"We got the first set of new signs then, so those signs have reached their lifespan. They're not reflecting (as they should)."

The DOT contracted the projects in February to Sheets Construction Co. in Locust Grove, with a scheduled completion date of Oct. 31.

"The contractor is now starting to install the support structures for the signage, pouring concrete footings and driving the piles that go into those deep holes — kind of everything below ground," Pope said.

The new signs are being made now.

"Later this summer, after the concrete is cured and we know that it's strong enough, then (motorists) will start to see the new signs go up and the old signs come down," Pope said.

Lane closures will take place for large overhead signs. That work likely will occur late summer or early fall as weather permits.