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'Continuous Flow’ Intersection Studied for Buford Hwy and JCB

An innovative design could save huge infrastructure investment at the busy crossing.

The Gwinnett Village CID is mulling over a new design for the dangerous and congested intersection of Buford Highway and Jimmy Carter Boulevard. The design would address bottlenecks caused by vehicles making a left across traffic, shifting them into a left-turn “leg” about 400 feet before the intersection to keep things moving.  

Gresham Smith and Partners presented a study of the design at the Gwinnett Village CID board meeting yesterday morning.  The Continuous Flow Interchange, designed by transportation engineer Mike Bruce, allows left-turns and through traffic to move at the same time, reducing the number of “phasings” in the traffic light and overall delays.

Two other Georgia locations are considering the CFI design: one in Snellville and one in Dawsonville, according to the CID. 

Gwinnett Village has had its eye on the intersection for some time: A 2008 study looked at a grade-separated intersection with a bridge, bearing a price tag of $44.9 million. In 2009, another study examined the idea of a Jug Handle Intersection, which would cost about $12.9 million.

The Continuous Flow option, which would include two left-turn traffic “legs” on Buford Highway, would cost an estimated $8.2 million, which the study said had a superior cost-benefit ratio to those ideas tossed around in the past.

In this climate, the bottom line is obviously key.  “The dollars just aren’t there any more—not at a state level, not at a federal level,” said John McHenry, Program Director at the Gwinnett Village CID.

One million in county SPLOST funds has already been set aside for the intersection. 

Fatalities have occurred at the intersection, says McHenry, and improvements are seen not just as an aspirin for commuter headaches, but also as a public safety improvement. 

This effort would be part of a larger CID strategy of creative problem solving to combat congestion. Plans are also afoot for a Diverging Diamond Interchange at I-85 and Jimmy Carter, just a few miles away.  

Would all of that lane flipping create confusion for drivers? “I really don’t think so,” said McHenry. He drove the Diverging Diamond, which is perhaps less intuitive than the Continuous Flow design, and said when you are on the ground it less confusing than looking at a “bird’s eye view” rendering.

The upgrade would be part of a larger plan on the part of the City of Norcross and the CID to redevelop the area. A few other streetscape projects are in the works and the parties were recently awarded a combined half million for sidewalk improvements. Norcross also adopted an overlay district along Buford Highway.

“One of the important things discussed at the meeting is that we’re also trying to spur growth and redevelopment along that corridor,” said McHenry. He said the vision is to create more of a boulevard. 

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