Construction and development crews with the Georgia Department of Transportation have been occupying the Ga. 400 and Hwy. 53 intersection for nearly 20 months, working to bring the state's first continuous flow intersection to the county.
The end is now in sight for construction on the "at-grade intersection," which is designed to move left-turning vehicles out of traffic's main flow by using a series of access roads and longer left-turn lanes.
Katie Strickland, district one communications officer for the GDOT, said that the expected completion date for the continuous flow intersection, or CFI, is May 10, 2017.
This month, crews have been working to pour the curb and gutter for the roadways, placing minor drainage structures and setting traffic light strain poles and signal equipment.
GDOT has removed the cable barrier entirely and will be placing new guard rail in January, according to Strickland. Paving crews are expected to have completed asphalt base and binder work by late October or early November.
Strickland said that no anticipated major traffic shifting will take place until late winter 2017, when the road will be in its finished traffic pattern.
Planning for Dawson County's CFI started in the early 1980s under a grant for Appalachian funds.
At the time, overpasses were being considered but were ruled out due to cost and disruption of traffic, as the work was estimated to cost $150 million or more.
The Georgia DOT unveiled the official plan for the intersection early in 2010, and it was projected to cost around $14 million. Six years later the project is nearing its final stages.
Many local businesses have expressed concern that the CFI will cut off their entrances and keep customers from going to their stores, but Kroger is the only business, so far, that has announced its intention to move from its current location at the intersection.
Kroger will relocate to a new shopping center farther south on Ga. 400, called Dawson
Marketplace. There the expanded grocery store will join PetCo, Hobby Lobby, Marshalls and other large retailers.
To accommodate the CFI's new traffic pattern, two new traffic signals on Hwy. 53, one near Burger King and one near Sonic at Dawson Village Way, are proposed to be up and operating by spring of 2017.
New signals have already been put up elsewhere on Ga. 400, though they are not yet functional. There is a new light at Quill Drive, another at Whitmire Drive near the Racetrac, and one on Dawson Forest Road by the entrance to the North Georgia Premium Outlets. Older lights like those at the intersection of Dawson Forest and Ga. 400 are being replaced.
GDOT also has plans to repair both of Dawson County's bridges that span over the Etowah River.
Strickland said work on the Etowah Bridge located on Hwy. 136 is scheduled to begin Oct. 16, and work on the other bridge, on Hwy. 9 near Rock Creek, is scheduled to begin February 2017.
The bridge at Hwy. 136 will be entirely closed with a detour for 180 days while the repairs are made. Strickland said that right now the plan for the bridge at Hwy. 9 is to build another bridge beside the existing one, so that people can use the road during construction with no detour.
The bridges are heavily travelled, and repair work was delayed in 2015 due to federal cuts. Both bridges were given failing ratings by the state at the time, but have remained operational.
Public Works Director David McKee said that the county does not have anything to do with the CFI or the bridge repairs, but that they are aware of need for the improvements being done.
"Those bridges are in much need of improvement," McKee said. "The GDOT is upgrading them because they are weight restricted. Right now large commercial trucks can't go over them and therefore have only one way to access the rest of the county and that is through Hwy. 53."
Additional GDOT road work in the county may be underway soon, as three long-anticipated roundabouts are currently in the design phase.
The roundabouts will be located at the Dawson Forest and Hwy. 9 intersection, at the Elliott Family Parkway and Hwy. 53 intersection, and at the Elliott Family Parkway and Hwy. 52 intersection.
McKee said that the county's main role in the planning of the roundabouts was their agreement to pay for the lights and electricity needed to keep the roundabouts lit.
After that, McKee said, it's in GDOTs hands.