Congestion Relief Ahead Along State Route 316 Between Lawrenceville and Athens

State Route 316 between Lawrenceville and Athens.  Red squares indicate new interchanges that are planned and funded, Blue squares are planned interchanges without funding.
State Route 316 between Lawrenceville and Athens. Red squares indicate new interchanges that are planned and funded, Blue squares are planned interchanges without funding.
Signalized intersections on Route 316 between Lawrenceville and Athens are on the way out, and grade-separated interchanges are on the way in, according to Georgia DOT commissioner Russell McMurry. Commissioner McMurry made the announcement at a Wednesday meeting of the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce. Ten grade separated interchanges along the route will be under construction starting in 2017 and continuing through 2026. An additional three interchanges are on the drawing board, but money for construction has not been allocated.

An interchange at State Route 81 south of Winder should start construction in 2017. In 2018, work begins on an interchange at Highway 53. 2020 begins the start of interchange construction at Highway 11 and at Patrick Mill Road. In 2022, work begins at the intersection of Winder Highway and 316 in Lawrenceville. In Athens, work begins on an interchange at the Oconee Connector in 2023. The interchange at Epps Bridge Road gets reworked in 2024. Work on an interchange at Harbins Road in Gwinnett also begins in 2024, and in 2026 construction starts at SR 211 / Bethlehem Road. Three additional interchanges, at Drowning Creek Road in Gwinnett, Barber Creek Road in Barrow County, and Jimmy Daniel Road in Oconee County are slated to begin construction after 2026.

McMurry said that all of this construction was made possible by the passage of the Transportation Funding Act in 2015. Even with all this work, the heavily used route will still have non signalized entrances and exits at smaller roads along the route, so it won’t be at true Interstate standards.

Commissioner McMurry told attendees at the chamber meeting that he was happy Governor Deal signed the Fiscal 2017 budget, which includes $825 million derived from the Transportation Funding Act. That funding was made possible by converting the state sales tax on gasoline to an excise tax, adding an additional registration fee for electric vehicles, and imposing a $5 per night fee on most hotel room rentals.

Oddly enough, the gas tax increase went almost unnoticed when it went into effect last July, since gas prices began dropping at about the same time. Had the state not changed from a sales tax on gas, where the amount collected is based on the price of gas to an excise tax, where the amount collected is based on the number of gallons purchased, McMurry said that gas tax revenue would have dropped by about $170 million this fiscal year due to lower fuel prices.

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Perhaps 316 would have been the route of Interstate 85—had Ernest Vandiver of Lavonia (Franklin County) not been elected governor in 1958. By 1957, today’s I-85 had been opened to Clairmont Road in DeKalb County and construction then proceeded into the rest of DeKalb and Gwinnett. Part of 316 was built as an expressway in the late 1950s (the first few miles east of 85), but then 316 halted for decades near Lawrenceville, and with Vandiver’s election as governor, 85 was built almost in a diagonal line from 316, passing between Gainesville and Athens via Franklin County and opening to… Read more »