The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) has completed three new interchanges along State Route (SR) 316 northeast of Atlanta, Ga., and is planning 29 other improvements to the freeway in the coming years to reduce the high number of crashes and improve the critical vehicle and truck thoroughfare.
The projects, expected to cost almost $829 million, include road resurfacing, bridge construction and signing and pavement marking upgrades along the increasingly busy highway.
The road, known locally as University Parkway or the Georgia 316, is a 35-mile-long state highway that runs from State Route 20 in Lawrenceville to State Route 10 in Oconee County just west of Athens.
The first eight kilometres of the road is a highway, but the rest of the route is at-grade with traffic signals. It links the Atlanta metropolitan area with Athens, home to Sanford Stadium and the University of Georgia.
The upgrades will remove existing at-grade intersections that rely on traffic signals and replace them with interchanges along the project route. Portions of the SR 316 marked for improvements have more than 13 signals.
Three projects have already been completed. They included new interchanges at Harbins Road in Gwinnett County, and at SR 81 and at SR 53, both in Barrow County.
The SR 53 project alone involved building 1.65 miles of interchange, a 150-foot-long bridge and approaches over the roadway to replace an existing intersection with a traffic signal. E.R. Snell Contractor Inc. completed the project this past June.
More than one million cubic yards of dirt was brought in to raise the existing profile grade up to 25 feet before and after the new bridge. About 60,000 tonnes of graded aggregate base was laid down and covered with new asphalt and concrete pavement. About 80,000 square yards of concrete was placed on new ramps.
As part of the project, more than 2,000 linear feet of storm drain pipe and two mechanically stabilized earth retaining walls were built to construct the bridge over SR 53.
One project is presently under construction at Bethlehem, about halfway along the route. A new boulevard extension is being installed at the intersection of Harry McCarty Road and SR 11 which connects to SR 316. The new intersection will provide motorists an alternate east-west route in lieu of the 316.
The project is geared to enhancing safety and reducing congestion along a portion of SR 316. Total cost of the section is expected to be about $24.3 million. Work on the section is to be completed in 2027.
Thirteen short-term projects are expected to get underway by 2025. They include new interchanges and intersection construction, right-of-ways, roadway connections and improvements along the thoroughfare.
Short-term funding has been granted for another eight locations along the route which will entail mostly new roadways and intersection upgrades.
Seven long-term projects are also in the planning stages, including a $23 million upgrade at SR 316 and Harry McCarty Road in Barrow County, and others along the thoroughfare at Harrison Mill Road, Smith Cemetery Road, Jackson Trail Road, Wall Road and Sam Sims Extension.
The improvements are expected to transform SR 316 into more of a free-flow roadway by eliminating at-grade intersections. According to the GDOT, this is expected to help reduce the number of vehicle conflict points and potential accidents.
In all, 32 projects have either been completed, are under construction or slated for work.
The improvement projects are being delivered using a design-bid-build process whereby GDOT completes design plans for a contractor to bid on and ultimately build the project, or a design-build process whereby GDOT provides preliminary plans and asks contractors to produce final plans to build the project.
The roadwork is being done because of the number of accidents and anticipated traffic congestion that is expected to occur between Atlanta and Athens. On average, there are 151 injury accidents and 408 property damage crashes per year at intersections along SR 316.
Gwinnett County is expected to become the most populous county in the region by 2050, with 1.48 million residents, according to data from an Atlanta Regional Commission study conducted in 2019. That will make Gwinnett County more populous than Fulton County which now includes 90 per cent of Atlanta.
Data from the GDOT indicates updating an intersection to an interchange, like what is planned for many of the projects along SR 316, results in a 28-per-cent reduction in injury-related accidents and a 27-per-cent reduction in non-injury crashes.