Local and state leaders gathered this morning in Woodstock to celebrate the completion of a transportation project that's been more than 30 years in the making.
The city of Woodstock held a ribbon cutting to welcome the opening of the Ridgewalk Parkway interchange at Exit 9 on Interstate 575.
The design-build project officially wrapped up on Nov. 16, about six weeks ahead of its Dec. 31 completion date. The project also was completed on budget.
Woodstock Mayor Donnie Henriques noted the project has been a "long time coming," adding the first correspondence on the project dates back to 1976.
He noted residents, city officials and other are "happy this thing is open.”
Georgia Department of Transportation District 6 Board Member Brandon Beach was also on hand for the event.
Beach presented a sign dedicating the interchange to former Woodstock Mayor and City Council member Bill Long, who spearheaded efforts decades ago to just to get the possibility of a new interchange on the state's radar.
The Georgia General Assembly approved a resolution earlier this year naming the interchange after Long.
Long served as mayor between 1975 and 1978 and represented Ward 2 on the city council between 1984 to 2006.
“In the transportation world, projects like this don’t happen without vision and leadership," he said in praise of Long's efforts "It takes a champion to build a project like this."
Long, who resigned from the city council in 2006, added he appreciated seeing the interchange done and open for drivers.
"It's going to help Woodstock and help the traffic situation around here," he said.
State Rep. Charlice Byrd added the project's completion is an example of government at "its best and its finest."
She noted many local and state leaders came together to support a project that will spur economic development in the area.
County Commission Chairman Buzz Ahrens added the community can already see the positive impact Ridgewalk's opening has made on Towne Lake Parkway. He also noted how much of a benefit the area will see once the Sixes Road bridge widening project over I-575 is completed next year.
Both projects were lobbied for in response to growing traffic congestion.
Along with building a diamond-shaped interchange, crews also replaced the Ridgewalk Parkway bridge over the interstate, realigned Rope Mill Road to intersect with Ridgewalk Parkway and installed auxiliary lanes between the new interchange and the Towne Lake Parkway northbound entrance and southbound exit ramps.
GDOT in 2010 awarded a $17.1 million contract to C.W. Matthews to perform the interchange construction with a deadline to complete the project by Dec. 31, 2012.
The project's completion comes ahead of the highly anticipated Outlet Shoppes at Atlanta's opening in 2013.
The 370,000 square foot facility will have more than 80 retail outlets, including stores such as Nike, Saks Fifth Avenue, Brooks Brothers, Levis, Talbots and Carters, among other stores.