The Georgia Department of Transportation recently announced the first phase of the I-85 widening project has been substantially completed.

Spanning across Gwinnett, Barrow and Jackson counties, the project widened I-85 north of metro Atlanta from two to three lanes by adding one general purpose lane and a paved shoulder in each direction with a concrete median barrier replacing the existing grassed median.

This was the first project from the Major Mobility Investment Program (MMIP), the largest investment in roadway mobility improvements in the state’s history, to start construction in 2018 and the first to be completed and open to traffic.

Instead of a typical in-person ribbon cutting the GDOT produced a video that can be shared to celebrate the occasion. It can be viewed on Georgia DOT’s YouTube channel at https://youtu.be/cYVuaUta-aE or https://youtu.be/MGxbG2lbNeA for a longer version.

“The successful completion of the I-85 Widening, Phase 1 project marks a huge milestone for the state of Georgia,” said Georgia DOT Commissioner Russell R. McMurry. “The capacity that this project has brought is crucial to the continued prosperity of the growing communities along the I-85 corridor in northeast Georgia.”

As part of the project, three 50-year-old overpass bridges — Spout Springs Road bridge, Flowery Branch Road bridge and Jesse Cronic Road bridge — were replaced with new bridges and one northbound and one southbound mainline bridge was replaced. An Intelligent Transportation System (ITS), closed-circuit television (CCTV), signage, striping, and guardrails were also added or received upgrades within the project limits.

"The cities of Suwannee, Lawrenceville, Buford, Hoschton, Auburn and the Town of Braselton, will all receive positive impacts by this investment in the state’s transportation network," according to the GDOT news release. "As a result, drivers between Hamilton Mill Road and State Route 53 are expected to experience a 56% decrease in delays."

The GDOT utilized a delivery method through Design-Build, which accelerated construction and reduced construction times, minimizing travel impacts as much as possible, and maximizing the use of resources and the project budget.

Georgia DOT has also expedited the timeline of the corridor’s Phase 2 improvements, another MMIP project.

"Advancing this project represents the Department’s ability to progress projects forward when there is less or no right-of-way acquisitions and commercial development that could be impacted through project design and construction," according to the GDOT news release.

The second phase includes widening I-85 from two to three lanes in both directions from SR 53 to just north of US 129. Additional work on the project includes replacing one overpass bridge and six mainline bridges along I-85. The project is anticipated to start construction in 2021 and open to traffic four years ahead of the original schedule in 2023.

Information on the MMIP is available at https://www.majormobilityga.com, the I-85 Widening, Phase 1 project is available on the Georgia DOT website at https://majormobilityga.com/projects/i85widening/, and Phase 2 can be found at https://majormobilityga.com/projects/i85wideningphase2/.

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