With , the prospect of paying to drive on a local roadway is no longer a new one for Gwinnett residents. It may also be a reality to which commuters must permanently adjust as officials consider making the future Sugarloaf Parkway extension from Dacula to Buford a toll road as well.
At the July 28 Dacula City Council meeting, Mayor Jimmy Wilbanks said he recently attended a concept meeting for the second phase of the Sugarloaf Parkway extension project. The $463 million road project will extend Sugarloaf Parkway through Dacula to Peachtree Industrial Boulevard in the Buford area.
“I found it very interesting that the toll people were there,” Wilbanks said.
The Georgia State Road and Tollway Authority finances various transportation projects using bonds, loans and other financing methods.
According to the SRTA website, tolling has “become part of the State’s approach to strategic transportation planning. Tolling is a means to pay for and maintain brand new highways and bridges which under normal circumstances a state cannot afford to build.”
Wilbanks said he did not yet know when the project would be built or how it would be financed, but said the toll authority was at the meeting to discuss the possibility of issuing bonds and making the Sugarloaf Parkway extension a toll road.
Despite the presence of SRTA officials, Gwinnett County Transportation Director Brian Allen maintains the Sugarloaf Parkway extension is not currently planned as a toll road.
"At this time, our plans show that the roadway would be constructed using traditional sources of revenue, i.e., a combination of local, state and federal funds, and will not be a tolled facility," Allen wrote in an emailed response to questions.
However, current plans also include scheduled to go before the voters next year.
Required funding includes $301 million for the first portion of the project, extending Sugarloaf from Hwy. 316 to Hwy. 20, and another $162 million to extend the roadway from Hwy. 20 to Peachtree Industrial Boulevard.
If TSPLOST fails to pass, then area residents must wait to see how the project will be funded. Additionally, Wilbanks said, approximately 111 parcels must be acquired before construction can commence potentially pushing construction back several years.
According to Allen, the project start date will depend upon funding availability.
"The recently adopted Plan 2040 shows construction in the 2018-2030 time frame for Section 2 (from SR 316 to SR 20) and the construction time frame for Section 3 (SR 20 to Peachtree Industrial Boulevard) is long range, 2031-2040," Allen wrote.
The stated purpose of the Sugarloaf Parkway extension is to “improve mobility in the central and eastern part of Gwinnett County, providing access between the Snellville/Grayson area and the Suwanee/Sugar Hill/Buford areas.” The project will also provide congestion relief to Highway 316, Highway 29, Highway 20 and Highway 124.
Wilbanks said there are only two proposed interchanges planned for Dacula, one at Highway 316 and one at Fence Road. He expressed concern regarding the impact the phase II extension will have on the city’s neighborhoods as well as the fact the proposed roadway will cut the city into two sections. Wilbanks also stands to be affected personally due to the fact he could lose as much as 30 acres of his property to condemnation.
For now though, Dacula residents must wait and watch as the parkway construction creeps closer to downtown. Work to connect the Sugarloaf Parkway to Highway 316 is expected to be complete in late 2012.