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What to expect on I-985 in South Hall in the next few months
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Road construction crews build an exit ramp to I-985 South Tuesday, April 16, 2019, at the new Exit 14 interchange at Martin Road currently under construction. - photo by Scott Rogers

Motorists on Interstate 985 might want to keep a GPS device handy as they travel in South Hall the next few months.

Completion of the new Exit 14 interchange between Oakwood and Flowery Branch, fixing a faulty bridge that’s part of the interchange work and efforts to put down a new driving surface and pavement markers will continue to force road closures.

Drivers already have experienced nighttime delays as the Georgia Department of Transportation has started grinding lanes and replacing concrete slabs. Recently, the DOT closed the northbound entrance ramp off Spout Springs Road as part of the effort.

And social media has been abuzz with driver grumbling, something not lost on Katie Strickland, DOT district spokeswoman.

“I’ve been getting a lot of Facebook comments, and people are very concerned about the delays on I-985,” she said. “I get it. I drive on I-985 as well. That (grinding work) is still ongoing and that is going to be completed in the fall.”

She added: “(Drivers) are just going to have to exercise some patience. This is much-needed work.”

In addition to a less bumpy ride, motorists will end up with more visibility as new reflectors are placed in the pavement.

“Pretty soon, it’s going to be like a brand new I-985,” Strickland said.

But for now, here’s a little bit of what to expect.

The right northbound lane approaching the interchange project was being closed at night last week for grinding work, project manager Liz Johnson said.

Some other concrete slab work along I-985 “is kind of sporadic right now,” she said. “They should be around Exit 4,” or 10 miles south of the Exit 14 work.

Work was being done in the southbound lanes around Exit 8, or the Friendship Road exit.

“We’re going to be running three lane closures probably through the end of May or early June,” Johnson said. “That’s when the grinding operation is projected to be completed.”

The driving surface project will involve all of I-985, from Interstate 85 to the Jesse Jewell Parkway exit in Gainesville. Lane closures typically begin at 7 p.m. and run overnight to 6 a.m.

The Exit 14 project will likely require lane closures as work will be done to replace the driving surface on three of four driving deck spans on the bridge crossing I-985 that did not meet strength standards.

That work could be done in April, Strickland said.

“We don’t have a start date yet for the (demolition), but they’ve started putting up plywood on the bridge,” she said.

Brandon Kirby, assistant district engineer, has said the problems stemmed from “a materials issue.”

“We will try to accommodate most of that at night and not inconvenience the traveling public, and (repairs) will not be costing taxpayers anything.”

Strickland has said the fixes shouldn’t delay the overall project, which has been set to wrap up on Aug. 31, 2019.

Otherwise, lane closures will be required with certain tasks, such as guardrail installation, concrete joints being sealed on the ramps and striping operations, she said.

Lane closures aren’t expected when new traffic signals are being installed at Martin Road and Atlanta Highway/Ga. 13, but police officers will be directing traffic, Strickland said.

The project is “78 percent complete,” with southbound ramps being built right now.

The $34 million project, underway since 2017, will connect Martin Road at Ga. 13 on the east side of I-985 to H.F. Reed at Thurmon Tanner Parkway on the west side.

“We’re still confident the contractor is going to deliver (the project by then)

Road work ahead

Here’s a quick look at work on I-985 in South Hall that may require future lane closures:

  • Completion of Exit 14 between Oakwood and Flowery Branch, including work on southbound ramps. Work is 78 percent complete

  • Redoing driving surface on most of the new bridge over I-985 as part of Exit 14 project.

  • New driving surface and pavement markers, including reflectors, being put down between Interstate 85 and Jesse Jewell Parkway exit in Gainesville.

Jeff Gill