Buford Dam Road at Lake Lanier has been closed for less than a week, but already motorists and area businesses are finding it difficult to adjust.
“It took two hours to get home on Monday night,” said Stacy Padin, owner of Discovery Point child development center on Sanders Road, off Buford Dam Road.
The 2-mile stretch of repaving being handled by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has shut down Buford Dam Road from Samples Road, a couple miles east of Padin’s business, to East Bank Park on the other side of the lake in Gwinnett County.
Roadwork has been limited to daytime hours, said Lisa Coghlan, spokeswoman for the corps district office.
While it could ease traffic, crews are not operating at night “because it’s not safe to do so,” she said.
A delay in getting started and the sporadic rain have had no impact on the duration of work and “the end construction date we’re still looking at is Nov. 5,” Coghlan said.
To get across the lake, drivers must take either Hwy. 20, to the south, or Hwy. 369, to the north.
Eastbound traffic along Hwy. 20 has been backing up for miles, at times from as far as Trammel Road in Forsyth to Suwanee Dam Road in Gwinnett.
Compounding the situation in Gwinnett, construction crews are working during the day at the Hwy. 20-Suwanee Dam Road crossing.
Padin has discovered her own secret route to get home using various back roads. But it still takes an hour, which is more than twice as long as it took before the roadwork began.
For Eddie Akbarshahi, owner of Buford Dam Quick Stop at Buford Dam and Samples/Lanier Beach South roads, the construction has been nothing short of a nightmare. In fact, he has seen business nearly grind to a halt.
“It is very hard,” he said. “We are trying to get by with this road construction.”
Akbarshahi said the decline started when Forsyth County repaved Buford Dam Road between Sanders and Samples roads. At times, the corridor was reduced to one lane, with a pilot car leading traffic through.
Crews also remade the intersection where his store sits, adding turn lanes and straightening the severe angle of the crossing.
“That one affected our business a lot because it was only one-way traffic,” Akbarshahi said.
“It was a big line of cars, so people passing by that traffic didn’t have time to stop. Now the effect is worse because the whole road is shut down.”
Akbarshahi said he’s tried to cut staff hours, but there are some expenses he just can’t avoid. Once the road reopens, he may hold some promotions to remind customers the store is still there.
“I wish Forsyth County had some kind of help or options to help businesses that have lost business during this construction,
especially in this economy,” he said. “The economy is bad by itself and this had added to its effect.”
Once the corps’ project is complete in early November, the 10,000 motorists who use Buford Dam Road every day will have a break until winter.
Come February or March, the next project likely will begin as the city of Cumming begins to widen the road between Hwy. 9 and Sanders Road.