Southern Highways

GA Highway 316 and 20 Intersection SignIt was about 1975 when Department of Transportation Commissioner Tom Moreland was at the Georgia Highway 120 Bridge in Lawrenceville. The Georgia DOT was opening the new four-lane portion of Georgia Highway 316 from Highway 120 on the west side of Lawrenceville to Highway 29 on the east side of town.

One element missing from that ceremony: because of the 1974-75 downturn in the economy, Moreland had cut $20 million out of that new portion of Highway 316… eliminating four bridgings of the new portion of the road. Those bridges across Highway 316 had originally been scheduled to be at Collins Hill Road, Georgia Highway 20, Hurricane Shoals Road and Georgia Highway 29.

Those of us attending this road opening remember wondering two things.

  • How long it would be before those four roads would be bridged over Highway 316?
  • How much more would the bridges cost once they were built? Some $20 million was “saved” by cutting bridges out of this new project.

Those questions are beginning to be answered now… approximately 36 years later. And….there is some good news.

On July 15, the Georgia Department of Transportation is scheduled to receive bids to relieve traffic congestion at both Georgia Highway 20 and Collins Hill Road at Highway 316 via a grade separation project. The contract should be awarded in early August of this year, with work beginning this fall.

So yes, relief is expected to be on the way this year for the Georgia Highway 20 and 316 intersection. It may take up to three years to see the project to completion, but at least work is underway.

Hurrah, Hurrah.

But it will be a costly project. Today’s right-of-way cost alone is $51.5 million. It’s estimated that the construction cost will be $54 million. Looking back, it makes the Moreland decision to eliminate the bridges mean higher cost today.

We haven’t seen the specific plans yet, but the project is expected to take the existing signalized intersections of both Highway 20 and Collins Hills Road with Highway 316 and re-construct them into one single interchange. In effect, it will extend Highway 316’s freeway style limited access to east of Highway 20. In the process, Georgia Highway 316 will be lowered approximately 25 feet to go under Highway 20. There will be a lot of earth-moving!

The project includes the grade separation of the existing Collins Hill and Georgia Highway 20 signalized intersections with Highway 316. Because of the proximity of Collins Hill Road and Highway 20, it is necessary to construct a “collector distributor” system (long ramps) between the two roads to provide access from Highway 316.

As an example, if you were going east on Highway 316, you would exit onto a collector road before Collins Hill Road. Then you would pass under a bridge of Collins Hill Road that goes over both the collector road and Highway 316, before exiting on Georgia 20 at a cloverleaf intersection.

Glory be! Miracles occur!

The Highway 20 intersection with Highway 316 is the key to today’s traffic congestion. At evening rush hour, outbound eastward traffic can be backed up all the way to the Duluth Highway. In the mornings, inbound westward traffic is often backed up well past the Gwinnett County Airport. It seems to take ages to cross this intersection.

Finally, after all these years, the grade separated intersection will be a welcomed relief to motorists.

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Elliott Brack

Elliott Brack

Elliott Brack is a native Georgian and veteran newspaperman. He published the weekly Wayne County Press for 12 years; was for 13 years the vice president and general manager of Gwinnett Daily News, and for 13 years was associate publisher of the Gwinnett section of The Atlanta Journal and Constitution. He now publishes, in retirement, Web sites on Gwinnett County, http://www.gwinnettforum.com, and Georgia news, http://www.georgiaclips.com.