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Work gearing up on massive I-985 project
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James Covington of J.A. Long fills low spots in the freshly poured concrete at a bus slip being constructed Wednesday afternoon at the Park and Ride on Atlanta Highway near Interstate 985. The Georgia Department of Transportation is preparing to wrap up the $75 million I-985 and Exit 16 project.

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Department of Transportation spokeswoman Teri Pope on the project.

Get ready to hit the brakes and respect speed limits. Work on the Interstate 985 reconstruction project at Exit 16 is about to go into overdrive.

The Georgia Department of Transportation is aiming to have all paving completed and all lanes open on Mundy Mill Road and Atlanta Highway before Hall County schools start the 2009-10 school year on Aug. 10.

That would serve as a major milestone in the DOT completing the $75 million reconstruction of Interstate 985 at those two roads, or exits 16 and 17, respectively. Crews soon will "be working night and day" on the project, said Teri Pope, DOT spokeswoman.

She still expects the entire project, which began nearly three years ago, to wrap up by Labor Day, adding her often-repeated phrase, "weather permitting."

Starting Sunday, crews will be paving, adding the top layer of asphalt to the road and striping new asphalt on Mundy Mill between Wal-Mart Supercenter and Robson Crossing Shopping Center, which is off Atlanta Highway.

The work is set for 7 p.m.-6 a.m. Sundays through Thursdays until the work is finished.

As the paving finishes, three lanes will be opened in each direction.

"The plan is to begin paving in the left or inside lane and do the inside or left-turn lanes and median work, then move to the right," Pope said.

As work progresses, two new and longer left-turn lanes from Mundy Mill eastbound to I-985 north, as well as one of the new, longer left-turn lanes from Mundy Mill westbound to I-985 south, will open.

The second left-turn lane from Mundy Mill west to I-985 south will open after I-985 south traffic is shifted back to its original location later this summer.

Once paving is complete on Mundy Mill, crews will move to Atlanta Highway to pave overnights based on the same schedule as Mundy Mill.

When finished, Atlanta Highway will have four lanes between Frontage Road to just south of Blackshear Place Baptist Church.

Also, starting Monday, crews will build and pave shoulders and repair barrier walls from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on I-985 south.

The left, or inside, lane will be closed between the Elachee Bridge and Exit 16. "This work is expected to take about a month," Pope said. "Crews will then work northbound in the same area doing the same work."

Pope said the work particularly could delay school-related traffic headed to Johnson High School and South Hall Middle School, where The da Vinci Academy is opening this fall.

It also could affect motorists headed to Gainesville State College, which resumes classes Aug. 17.

But then all motorists traveling the area during the next month or so might want to keep an eye on the brake lights in front of them.

"Please be patient with us as we finish up this mammoth project," Pope said. "We are almost out of your way."

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