Oconee Co residents speak out on plans for 316 upgrades

Plans are underway for a major overhaul along a busy and dangerous highway in the region, a project forcing some people out of their homes.

Work is set to begin in early 2025 on Georgia Highway 316 at Dials Mill Extension in Oconee County. Plans call for a bridge over Highway 316, entrance and exit ramps, and a roundabout on each side of the highway.

It’s one in a series of projects planned for a 40-mile stretch of the highway between Lawrenceville and Athens, a route notorious for speeders and crashes.

The Georgia Department of Transportation says with so many two-lane roads crossing the busy four-lane highway, crashes are a chronic problem. A GDOT study shows most of the corridor has crash rates higher than the state average.

“People always say, where do you live? And I say across the 316 death trap,” said Janice Powell, who’s lived near the Dials Mill Extension intersection with Highway 316 for decades.

She calls it a “death trap” because she routinely hears accidents on the highway. She welcomes improvements to Highway 316 but calls it “heartbreaking” that some of her longtime neighbors have to move.

“A lot of us older folks that lived here for years and years and years have seen a lot in our life,” she said.

The state is buying several homes around Dials Mills Extension that have to be demolished for the project. The residents declined to speak on the record, but several told Channel 2 Action News reporter Bryan Mims that they have to move in a few months and GDOT is helping with relocation.

Carolyn Cowart has lived near the Dials Mill Extension intersection for 50 years. She doesn’t have to move, but she bristles at the thought of all the construction set to start in early 2025.

“It’s gonna disrupt everybody in this area,” she said. “It’s gonna disrupt everybody.”

Still, she said, it’s a price that’s necessary for a safer Highway 316.

“There’s a lot of wrecks,” Cowart said. “A lot of people have lost their lives on 316.”

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