Right-of-way acquisition is just starting on a major and unique-for-Georgia retooling of Ga. 400 at Hwy. 53 in Dawson County, one of the region's busiest intersections.
The cost of acquiring the 33 parcels is $9.5 million, a process that could take up to 18 months to complete, said Teri N. Pope, a Hall County-based spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Transportation.
Plans are being developed for a "continuous-flow intersection," initially one of several options the DOT considered to fix the traffic-clogged intersection.
The concept, realized in other parts of the U.S. but still new to Georgia, seeks particularly to ease the flow of northbound and southbound Ga. 400 traffic trying to turn left onto Hwy. 53.
Those vehicles will travel into a left-turn lane farther back than the left-turn lanes now in place. When the left-turn signal turns green, motorists will drive across the oncoming lanes into new lanes on the far left side of the road.
Another left-turn signal then will prompt drivers to complete the left turn.
Drivers will turn right from Hwy. 53 onto Ga. 400 much as they would enter an interstate, merging with traffic as they complete the turn.
Construction is estimated at $11 million and could take up to 1.5 years to complete. Work is expected to start in fiscal 2015, which begins July 1, 2014.
"This intersection was identified as needing upgrades in 2001," Pope said, explaining its history.
Among the options considered by the DOT were several styles of interchanges, "flyover" bridges and even a roundabout. At one point, the DOT estimated $120 million for a full-blown interchange.
There were early concerns about intersection fixes and their potential impact on right of way. The area around the intersection is heavily commercial and includes North Georgia Premium Outlets.
"We began meetings with a stakeholder group of business officials, local elected officials and the [Dawson County Chamber of Commerce] to discuss options for the area," Pope said.
The continuous-flow, or CFI, concept was presented at a public open house on April 15, 2010.
It was determined at that point that the CFI was "the least expensive for both right of way and construction because it has the smallest footprint and requires the least amount of additional land," Pope said.
Also, "construction is less because there are no bridges involved."
Another CFI is "in development" in Snellville at U.S. 78/Ga. 10 and Ga. 124, Pope said.