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Northeast Georgia Residents Anticipate Interstate Widening

Wed February 15, 2006 - Southeast Edition
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HARTWELL, GA (AP) Local officials in northeast Georgia said the widening of Interstate 85 can’t come quick enough.

One lane will be added in each direction for 70 mi. from the South Carolina line to I-985 in Gwinnett County northeast of Atlanta in a project estimated at $324 million.

The plan also calls for an HOV lane from I-985, which splits off to Gainesville and Lake Lanier, to Hamilton Mill Road in northern Gwinnett.

Construction is expected to begin in the next fiscal year.

Work will start at I-985 in 5- to 7-mi. increments, said Teri Pope, Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) spokeswoman.

Officials in the region said the wider interstate will be a tremendous draw for business development.

“The hot-spot location for industry is from Atlanta to Charlotte,” said Bob Evans, Hart County economic development director. He said companies don’t want to see products tied up on the road.

“When goods are in transit, somebody’s got money invested in it,” Evans said. “The sooner the delivery, the sooner you get your money for it.”

Easy access to I-85 and the promise of increased lanes is one of the reasons TI Automotive chose to locate in the Gateway Industrial Park in his county, he said.

Lavonia is getting its infrastructure ready for the future as the I-85 widening project works its way north and a GA 17 widening project is completed. A new sewer line is being installed from I-85 to the wastewater plant and updates to the plant also are in the works, Mayor Ralph Owens said.

The I-85 project is part of Gov. Sonny Perdue’s Fast Forward transportation program, which will invest $15.5 billion statewide over six years to relieve congestion and promote economic growth.

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