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Exit 14 now fully operational on Interstate 985
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Orange barrels are removed from the Exit 14 ramp Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020, as the long awaited bridge opens for traffic. - photo by Scott Rogers

Update, 2:50 p.m., Jan. 30: Exit 14 is finally open — all parts of it, including the once-troubled bridge spanning Interstate 985 in South Hall.

The overpass and all entrance and exit ramps were opened by 11:30 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 30, as crews removed orange-and-white construction barrels.

The $34 million interchange connects Martin Road at Falcons Parkway/Ga. 13 on the east side of I-985 to H.F. Reed Industrial Parkway at Thurmon Tanner Parkway on the west side. The new exit sits on the Flowery Branch-Oakwood border.

Construction of the interchange seemed well on track until early 2019, when three of four spans on the overpass’ concrete driving surface failed strength tests.

The interchange partially opened Sept. 3, with motorists only able to use entrance and exit ramps.

“We do think the new interchange will not only improve existing traffic flow for all, but will also be a stimulus for more development in the H.F. Reed Industrial Parkway and Thurmon Tanner Parkway corridors,” Oakwood City Manager Stan Brown said.

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By: Scott Rogers

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The first traffic moves across the Exit 14 bridge over I-985 Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020 as the long awaited bridge opens to motorist. - photo by Scott Rogers

Flowery Branch Mayor Mike Miller said he believes developers will see the interchange “as a prime piece of real estate.”

“Obviously, we hope it will bring some good development to the city limits and South Hall area,” he said. “At this point, no one has expressed any specific interest in anything. We’ve had some questions about it but nothing on paper.”

The interchange is the culmination of years of planning and building, as government leaders have long said they envisioned the exit as an economic tool and traffic reliever. 

Over the years, the east side of the interchange grew to be mostly residential, while the west became more business- and industry-oriented.

Several years ago, as the Georgia Department of Transportation held a public meeting on plans for the interchange, residents — particularly in the Martin Road area — rose in opposition to the project, with “Stop Exit 14” signs springing up soon after in yards along the road.

Eventually, that cooled, as other improvements were made, including a roundabout at Martin and JM Turk Road, and the pulling from plans a proposal to widen Martin Road from the new interchange to Winder Highway.

Residents again opposed a proposal for commercial development on 15 acres off Martin Road near the exit, including a drive-in restaurant, banks, medical offices and car washes. Oakwood City Council voted Sept. 9 to approve the development, which excludes a hotel.

Update, 6:30 p.m., Jan. 28: The opening of Exit 14 has been delayed again.

According to GDOT: "Work to stripe the bridge continues (Tuesday) evening. We have also started the process for the traffic signals at the ramps to start cycling. At this time, signal activation for the interchange will take place Thursday morning and the bridge should open by midafternoon Thursday."

Update, Jan. 28 : Final striping is taking place on the Exit 14 overpass over Interstate 985, with the Georgia Department of Transportation expecting the entire interchange to open to motorists Tuesday evening.

Update: Jan. 27:

The Exit 14 overpass isn't opening Monday, Jan.27, as expected due to bad weather. 

The Georgia Department of Transportation is hoping the entire interchange will open on Tuesday, Jan. 28, if rain stops, district spokeswoman Katie Strickland said. Rain is supposed to clear out Monday and conditions are expected to be dry Tuesday, according to the National Weather Service.

Update, Jan. 23: 

The Exit 14 overpass now is set to open to motorists Monday, Jan. 27.

Rainy weather on Thursday, Jan. 23, "will prevent the necessary striping activities scheduled," says a Georgia Department of Transportation press release.

The opening means the interchange off Interstate 985 in South Hall will be fully operational.

Update, Jan. 22: 

The Exit 14 overpass will open to motorists Saturday, Jan. 25.

“Final striping, guardrail and the activation of the traffic signals will take place over the next few days,” says a Georgia Department of Transportation press release.

The opening means the interchange off Interstate 985 in South Hall will be fully operational.

Update, Jan. 20:

The single lane closures on I-985 will be "intermittent," said Georgia DOT spokeswoman Katie Strickland, and affect both northbound and southbound traffic from the evening of Monday, Jan. 20, to Wednesday, Jan. 22.

Previous story:

Exit 14’s bridge is a failure no more.

The overpass’ concrete driving surface has passed strength tests it had failed in early 2019, said Katie Strickland, Georgia Department of Transportation district spokeswoman on Friday, Jan. 17.

For motorists, that means the South Hall interchange off Interstate 985 can move in earnest toward being fully operational. 

“If next week’s weather allows, we could have the bridge opened before the end of the month,” Strickland said.

Crews “are finishing the surface work this week,” she added.

The DOT is planning lane closures 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 20, to 5:30 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 21, and 7 p.m. Tuesday to 5:30 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 22, on I-985 at the interchange for guardrail installation, Strickland said.

Since Sept. 3, motorists have only been able to use Exit 14’s entrance and exit ramps.

When completely open, the $34 million interchange will connect Martin Road at Falcons Parkway on the east side of I-985 to H.F. Reed at Thurmon Tanner Parkway on the west side.