Originally created 06/18/04

Changes await Highway 316



ATLANTA - Members of the public got their first look at proposed improvements to Georgia Highway 316 during a "public information open house" Thursday in Gwinnett County.

The Department of Transportation unveiled several proposed changes to interchanges and bridges along the route for public comment, along with a proposal to introduce several miles of HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lanes. Those lanes allow cars with more than one rider to use a reserved lane.

In the case of Highway 316, the HOV lanes would run from Interstate 85 to Progress Center Avenue, which is east of Georgia Highway 20 in Gwinnett and would be separated from the rest of the highway by concrete barriers. The HOV lanes also would feed into similar lanes on I-85.

The construction is expected to cost $120 million.

DOT spokeswoman Teri Pope said the changes will help with safety and traffic flow along the road. The changes are not related to proposals to turn the highway into a toll road, something that has concerned some commuters who use the road to travel between Athens and Atlanta.

In addition to the HOV lanes, the proposal would build a new interchange for Collins Hill Road and Highway 20 and would rebuild the Georgia Highway 120 bridge over Highway 316. Interchanges that would be accessible only from the HOV lanes would be added at Herrington Road and Walther Boulevard, though the Walther Boulevard interchange could be dropped and an HOV-only interchange added at Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road.

The interchanges, in particular, will help with safety at intersections, where most accidents take place, Ms. Pope said.

"If we can separate the directions of traffic, it's a much safer ride," Ms. Pope said.

The HOV lanes, and their link with the similar routes on I-85, should aid long-distance travelers, she said. "It will help commuters in their travel time drastically."

Gary Verheyen, a Lawrenceville resident who often uses the road to travel to church, his son's house and on trips to Athens, said he liked the project.

"I think the traffic flow will be (better), which will take the stress off of me," Mr. Verheyen said.

But he said he was opposed to the toll proposal because of his experience with similar setups in the Midwest.

"They put a toll road up, it stays," Mr. Verheyen said.

Cindy Holcombe, also of Lawrenceville, said her only quibble with the program is that she wished it would get under way more quickly. "The traffic has just gotten horrible out there," she said.

Under Gov. Sonny Perdue's "Fast Forward" plan, the project is set to be completed by 2010.

Ms. Holcombe, from Upstate New York, said she didn't necessarily oppose Highway 316 becoming a toll road.

"I don't have a problem with a toll booth if it helps keep the road in better condition," she said.

Reach Brandon Larrabee at (404) 681-1701 or brandon.larrabee@morris.com.

Voice Your Ideas

Comments on the Highway 316 proposals can be submitted to the Department of Transportation until June 28. Send written comments to Harvey D. Keepler, State Environmental/Location Engineer, Georgia Department of Transportation, 3993 Aviation Circle, Atlanta, GA 30336-1593.