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Study proposes new exit, widening for I-85
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A new Interstate 85 exit could be coming at the Ga. 60 overpass in Braselton, according to an I-85 corridor study.

Jackson County staff worked with Moreland Altobelli Associates Inc. in conducting the study, which looked at several possible candidates for an interchange. But Ga. 60’s location and the roads that connect to it make it a more favorable location than other roads in the county.

Bruce King, a consultant with Moreland, discussed the study with the Jackson County Board of Commissioners at its retreat earlier this month.

King said Ga. 60 could be extended south to Bill Watkins Road via Sam Freeman Road to allow more people in the Braselton and Hoschton area to access the potential interchange.

The county started laying the groundwork for the project when staff met with the Georgia Department of Transportation last month about the interchange. The department has since approved the county’s request to develop an interchange justification report, which outlines “technical requirements, construction costs, design costs ... and discusses the need and justification for an additional connection to the interstate,” according to Don Clerici, county capital projects manager.

DOT and the Federal Highway Administration will have to approve the document before the county can proceed with the project, which will be paid for through the county’s 2008 economic development bond program.

But Clerici said the project is still in the very beginning stages and there isn’t a time line yet for when the project will begin.

“The (Ga.) 60 interchange construction date depends heavily on funding and approval, so a start date is too unknown at this time,” he said.

Braselton, Hoschton project suggestions

The I-85 corridor study also fits well with the countywide transportation plan, which has been drafted by Moreland Altobelli, Jackson County staff and the county’s transportation focus group.

Though the transportation plan remains in draft form, the county commission will likely approve the interim document in May and approve the final draft in September, along with the county’s comprehensive plan. Clerici said he hopes to get feedback from both the commission and the community on the plan.

The transportation plan details a number of recommended road improvements, transportation goals and other projects the county could pursue down the road — many of which would impact Braselton and Hoschton residents should the commission decide to act on them in the future.

King estimates that the section of I-85 between the Barrow County line and Ga. 53 will need to be widened from four to six lanes between now and 2013 and from six to eight lanes by 2023 to accommodate the inevitable increase in traffic along the highway.

“There will be very high congestion, especially during peak travel periods,” King explained. “It will be important to maintain regular contact with the District 1 staff and senior management at GDOT to ensure that I-85 is widened by the year 2023 to avoid major traffic congestion and increased traffic accidents.”

In addition to looking at the interstate highway, the plan addresses connectivity among the nine municipalities in Jackson County and recommended several roads be extended or new ones built to improve those connections.

The main projects that Moreland Altobelli recommended the commission start with, based on traffic volume and construction costs, include improving the roads from the Braselton-Hoschton area to Talmo, Maysville and Pendergrass.

More specifically, the projects call for extending New Cut Road toward Talmo and U.S. 129, extending Sam Freeman Road south to Bill Watkins Road and other road additions.

Other road projects

Jackson County has drafted a transportation plan that discusses a number of road projects, objectives and improvements that can be made to county roads in the future. Here are some that would impact Braselton and Hoschton residents: Improve the intersection of Thompson Mill Road and Jesse Cronic Road at New Liberty Church Road.

Build a Park and Ride station on Ga. 53 and on Ga. 129 to go along with the future I-85 widening projects. Park and Ride lots are part of the Georgia Rideshare Program, which offers carpooling options for commuters in Georgia.

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