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County awards $45 million bid to local company for Exit 18 interchange, Hwy. 369 widening projects
There was a full house on Tuesday at Coal Mountain Elementary School as neighbors stopped by to see plans for a proposed widening project and new Ga. 400 interchange on Hwy. 369. - photo by Kelly Whitmire

The Forsyth County Board of Commissioners approved a bid of just over $45 million from Vertical Earth on Tuesday for projects that are set to transform two major roadways in North Forsyth.

The Forsyth County-based company will get $45,154,529.32 to construct the new Exit 18 interchange at the current intersection of Ga. 400 and Browns Bridge Road (State Route 369) and simultaneously widen two miles of Browns Bridge Road.

The project is being funded by Forsyth County and the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) along with $3 million in grants. Forsyth County is contributing just over $26 million from its 2014 transportation bond approved by voters, while GDOT will pay $16 million.

As a joint-funded project, GDOT had to give final approval on the company who was awarded the bid.

Together, the projects aim to ease congestion in one of the busiest areas in North Forsyth.

The biggest change would be replacing the current intersection with a partial-cloverleaf interchange that is common along Ga. 400.

At the same time, two miles of Browns Bridge Road will be widened from two lanes to four lanes from just west of Dahlonega Highway (Hwy. 9 north) to just east of Keith Bridge Road (Hwy. 306).

Hwy. 369 Ga. 400 071219 web
Traffic navigates the intersection of Hwy. 369 and Ga. 400 on Thursday, July 11, 2019. Preliminary work is set to begin on a new interchange project that will upgrade the existing intersection to a "grade-separated, partial cloverleaf interchange."

The projects are set to be completed by spring 2023, but Sarah VanVolkenburgh, with the law firm Jarrard & Davis, LLP, said during Tuesday’s work session that negotiations with Georgia Power over reimbursements for relocating utilities along the roadways could delay that timeline.

According to VanVolkenburgh, Georgia Power needs to relocate 63 utility facilities along the roadways. The company estimates it will cost $1,486,855.

Georgia Power wants to be reimbursed 91% of that cost, or $1,359,451.

So far, the two parties have agreed that 21 of the facilities are eligible for reimbursement and three are not, VanVolkenburgh said.

But 39 of the facilities are still in dispute “because the county doesn’t have enough information to make a determination one way or another,” VanVolkenburgh said.

Settling those disputes would require determining when the utilities were installed by finding old title and right of way records, some of which date back to the 1930s. Searching for those records could delay the project.

Meanwhile, Georgia Power will not start work on relocating the utilities until the two parties reach an agreement, VanVolkenburgh said.

Commissioner Cindy Jones Mills, who represents District 4 where the projects are located, asked to bring GDOT into the negotiations to hopefully resolve the dispute and move the projects along. 

“It’s worth a shot.”