Welcome to the summer commute for I-20 and I-285 motorists over the next three months.
And this fall, the massive $30.9 million I-20 Collector/Distributor Lanes project will kick off, causing more travel blues for the next two years.
The Georgia Department of Transportation said this week that it is gearing up to top off the section of I-20 between Columbia Drive and Turner Hill Road and to repave I-285 between the Ashford Dunwoody and Chamblee Tucker exits.
The commute for DeKalb residents and other interstate travelers is shaping up to be a bear.
But GDOT spokesman Mark McKinnon said it’s all necessary work that must be done now, when temperatures are high enough to lay asphalt and to stem more highway deterioration that will cost more.
“If we don’t repair these roads when it is needed, it will be more expensive and more time-consuming,” McKinnon said Thursday. “What is key here is that when it is done, people will be pleased.”
Work crews were expected back on I-20 in South DeKalb starting at 9 p.m. on May 13 to lay down an inch-and-a-half of asphalt on the 9.8-mile project that was halted last fall when frigid weather set in.
The $28.6 million joint venture project by E.R. Snell Contractors Inc. and Pittman Construction began June 18 last year.
This weekend, the I-20 West ramp to I-285 North is scheduled to close day and night between 9 p.m. Friday and 5 a.m. Monday. Several westbound lanes also will be closed on Saturday and Sunday between Panola Road (Exit 71) and Wesley Chapel Road (Exit 68) to seal joints in preparation for the final layer of asphalt for the resurfacing project. The closures will be in effect from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days. On Saturday, one right lane will be closed. On Sunday, two left lanes will be closed.
McKinnon said interstate traffic will be detoured south on I-285 to turn around at Flat Shoals Parkway to head north on I-285.
He said local residents should use alternate routes and avoid I-20.
“We are expecting congestion,” McKinnon said. “It’s going to be pretty busy and pretty heavy out there, and motorists should plan ahead before they go out.”
The restart of the project could be delayed by rain this weekend. Meteorologists are forecasting a 60 percent chance of rain all weekend.
“If it’s raining heavily, they won’t be able to work,” McKinnon said. “They are watching the weather and they will make the determination Friday evening.”
Once the work starts, McKinnon said it will take the crews four to five weekends of work to lay the final top “with that smooth surface that motorists like to drive on.”
The I-285 project includes repairing bridge joints and resurfacing more than six miles of the interstate between Ashford Dunwoody and Chamblee Tucker roads.
The $10.9 million project will kick off in June between Ashford Dunwoody Road, near Ga. 400, to Chamblee Tucker Road, near Spaghetti Junction.
It is scheduled for completion by Jan. 1.
I-285 carried more than 275,000 vehicles daily, and McKinnon said the work will be restricted to weekday nights and all weekends, between 9 p.m. Fridays and 5 a.m. Mondays.
The congested I-20/I-285 interchange between the Columbia Drive and Wesley Chapel Road exits will eliminate the significant weaving that takes place between I-20 eastbound traffic exiting at Wesley Chapel and vehicles entering I-20 East from I-285.
Since 2005, the number of vehicles using the interchange daily has grown from 82,489 to 96,000. By 2012, it is expected to reach 99,875. The area also has seen a rising number of accidents. Between 2005 and 2007, 534 people were injured within the project’s area and three were killed.
Among other things, the 4.7-mile Collector/Distributor project will widen I-20 up to five lanes at certain points, add 1.2 miles of barrier-separated Collector/Distributor Lanes from the I-285/I-20 interchange to Wesley Chapel Road, and realign the I-285 northbound and southbound ramps to I-20 East.
McKinnon said that GDOT expects to approved the design of the project by late summer and construction will begin in the fall and continue through July 31, 2013.
The $30.9 million project was awarded Feb. 7 to Marietta-based C.W. Matthews Contracting Co. Inc.
He said the project will include access roads paralleling I-20 similar to those at the Hillandale Road exit, but that they won’t know what it will look like until the design is completed.
Ga. 155 from the Henry County line to Snapfinger Road also is scheduled for repaving at a cost of $1 million. The 3.3-mile project, awarded to C.W. Matthews Contracting, is scheduled for completion by March 31, 2012, but the company said Thursday that a start date has not yet been scheduled.
The DeKalb highways are among 18 projects totaling $403 million that will be under way in metro Atlanta this year as part of GDOT’s RoadWorks2011 summer construction program. Statewide, GDOT expects to spend about $850 million on construction this fiscal year.
To ease the burden on motorists, GDOT says it will suspend construction on the weekends for Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Labor Day.
It is urging motorists to exercise extreme caution while driving through work zones and to obey posted, reduced speed limits; avoid unnecessary lane changes; and allow extra stopping distance between vehicles.
McKinnon said it’s important for motorists to arm themselves with patience.
“We are doing this for their benefit. Go to Navigator [GeorgiaNavigator.com]. Call 511. See where the construction is going to be and if you can find an alternate route. It will save you a lot of time.”