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I-985 widening in South Hall is off the table. Here’s why
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Traffic moves along Interstate 985 on Tuesday, March 2, 2021, south of the Wade Orr Road overpass in South Hall. The Georgia Department of Transportation has shelved the proposed widening project of the road. - photo by Scott Rogers

Widening plans for Interstate 985 in South Hall have been shelved, as the state turns its attention instead to traffic along Interstate 85 in Gwinnett County.

The Georgia Department of Transportation had been looking at widening  from four to six lanes the busy I-985 between I-85 and Exit 16 in Oakwood, with work possibly starting in 2022.

But officials decided not to proceed with the project “based on existing and projected traffic in the corridor,” said GDOT spokeswoman Natalie Dale. “So, the project is no longer being actively worked on.”

State Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, said a study of the I-985 project recommended not to proceed because “no widening of I-85 was included” as part of the project.

“Widening of I-85 would be required to take the increased volume from I-985,” he said. “Without widening I-85, it was determined there was not sufficient cost/benefit to proceed.”

GDOT is teaming up with Gwinnett on the I-85 study, Miller said.

And “if that study recommends widening I-85, it would make the I-985 widening more feasible and practical,” he said.

Dale also confirmed that the I-85 study would include the interchange at I-985 and “may recommend additional improvements in this area.”

Reacting to the news, Richard Higgins, chairman of the Hall County Board of Commissioners, said widening I-985 “just makes sense for better traffic flow” as more people are moving to the Hall County area.

“But the DOT only has so many dollars and they’ve got to figure out the best places to spend them,” he said.

At one time, the I-985 project was estimated to cost $81 million.

The project is noted in the Gainesville-Hall County Metropolitan Planning Organization’s long-range planning document but only as being paid for by “other funding sources.”

The state’s Transportation Funding Act of 2015, which enacted a 26-cent excise tax, is identified as the source for the I-985 widening.

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