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Building Set For 2024 On First Four GA 316 Projects in Oconee County

Tue March 09, 2021 - Southeast Edition

Construction is scheduled to begin in 2024 on four of nine intersection projects in Oconee County, Georgia, that are part of a massive effort to transform Georgia State Road 316 into what the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) is calling "a freeway-style corridor."

Oconee County Board of Commissioners Chair John Daniell said he received notice of the preliminary schedule for the nine Oconee County intersection projects in December.

Included in the initial construction is a "bundle" of projects that will include multi-grade intersections at the Oconee Connector and GA 316, and at Jimmy Daniell Road and GA 316. The bundle also includes a bridge supporting Virgil Langford Road, currently blocked, across GA 316.

Construction also is scheduled for 2024 for what now appears likely to be a bridge over GA 316 at Dials Mill Extension in the far west of the county.

Documents assembled on a special page on the GDOT website for GA 316 show a total of 31 projects across three counties, beginning at GA 20 in Gwinnett County, just to the northeast of the metro Atlanta area, and continuing east through Barrow County before ending at the intersection with the GA 10 Loop, southeast of Athens in Oconee County.

Nine other GA 316 roadway upgrade projects are in Gwinnett County, and 13 are in Barrow County.

Oconee County's nine projects under the guidance of the GDOT are, from west to east, improvements to GA 316 intersections with Dials Mill Extension, Dials Mill Road, McNutt Creek Road, Mars Hill Road, Julian Drive, Jimmy Daniell Road, Virgil Langford Road, the Oconee Connector, and GA Loop 10.

Design work for all the Oconee County projects is incomplete, but the current total cost estimate for the nine enterprises is $262 million, with construction start dates running through 2032.

The GDOT's reconstruction efforts along GA 316 is based on a need to improve the state road to handle its current and future traffic congestion and reduce historic crash rates along the corridor. Once completed, the changes will upgrade sections of SR 316 to a freeway-style corridor, improve traffic flow conditions and lower the number and severity of accidents.

First Four Oconee Projects

The documents recently released by GDOT promoting the changes to GA 316 designate the actual character of four of the nine intersections upgrades.

  • The most advanced of the projects is a new multi-grade interchange at the Oconee Connector. GDOT designated $4.3 million in preliminary engineering funding for this project in 2019. Right of way acquisition is designated to start in 2024, with construction money also designated for that year. Total project cost is estimated at $75.2 million
  • Jimmy Daniell Road also is marked as a new multi-grade interchange. The preliminary engineering is scheduled to start in 2023, with right of way acquisition in 2024 and construction starting that same year. Its cost is projected to be $74.9 million
  • Virgil Langford Road is designated as a new bridge in the documents provided to Daniell in December. Construction is to start in 2024. In that document, and on the GDOT web site, only $1.7 million is set aside for construction, with no money designated for engineering or right of way acquisition. No explanation has been given for such a low funding amount for that construction
  • The intersection of GA 316 with the GA 10 Loop is designated as becoming an interchange by the GDOT through "reconstruction/rehabilitation." The agency's web page indicates that improvement will begin engineering efforts in 2030, followed by construction in 2032, at a total cost of $10.8 million

Jody Woodall, director of Oconee County Public Works, said that he understood there would be some savings by bundling the first three interchanges listed.

Four of Final Five Likely to Be Bridges

The type of intersections is not marked for any of the five remaining Oconee County projects on the GDOT list.

Woodall said the costs listed suggest that enough money is being designated for an interchange only at GA 316 and Dials Mill Road. The other four could be bridges, given the figures provided by the GDOT, he said.

  • Preliminary engineering is to begin this year on the Dials Mill Road intersection, with right of way acquisition in 2023 and construction in 2025, totaling $38.9 million
  • What is likely to be a bridge at the Dials Mill Extension should begin initial engineering this year, with right of way acquisition in 2023 and construction in 2024. The project's price tag is $16.6 million
  • Preliminary engineering is budgeted in 2022 for the McNutt Creek Road intersection, followed by right of way acquisition set to follow in 2024 and construction in 2026 — all at a total cost of $17.1 million
  • Crews working on the $12.9 million Mars Hill Road intersection with GA 316 will begin that project's engineering in two years, right of way acquisition in 2025 and construction in 2027
  • What will probably be preliminary engineering for a $13.8 million bridge at Julian Drive is scheduled for 2024, with right of way acquisition in 2026 and a full build in 2028

Several of the projects in Gwinnett and Barrow counties already are under construction.

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