The first Interstate 520 shield posted after the Savannah River bridge. Opened on June 22, 2004, the initial leg of Palmetto Parkway connected Georgia State Route 28 and Sand Bar Ferry Road with U.S. 1-78-278. Photo by Carter Buchanan (07/07/04).
Known as the Bobby Jones Expressway in Georgia and Palmetto Parkway in South Carolina, Interstate 520 encircles Augusta and North Augusta along a 23-mile loop. Running south from SR 232 and I-20 to Wrightboro Road (Exit 2), the freeway starts out with eight overall lanes separated by a concrete barrier median. Serving a bevy of retail areas and Augusta Mall, this stretch includes a pair of two-lane collector distributor roadways as it .
The freeway carries six lanes south to the six-ramp parclo interchange with U.S. 78/278 (Gordon Highway), which along with U.S. 1 (Deans Bridge Road), provides one of two routes connecting I-520 with Fort Gordon to the west. Beyond there, I-520 curves around the south side of Augusta to U.S. 25 and SR 56 .
The remainder of I-520 through Richmond County takes the loop northeast across Phinizy Swamp to industrial areas along the Savannah River at East Augusta. The freeway ended there until 2004, when the first leg of Palmetto Parkway opened northward to Aiken County, South Carolina. Palmetto Parkway weaves through suburban areas of North Augusta along a rural four lane course to Interstate 20 by Mathis Lake.
The designation of Interstate 520 was approved by AASHTO on October 28, 1977 along Bobby Jones Expressway southward from I-20 to New Savannah Road. Previously numbered as Georgia State Route 232, the expressway connected I-20 with U.S. 1 (Dean Bridge Road) by 1975. I-520 appeared the Official Georgia Highway Map first in 1980, when Bobby Jones Expressway was completed east to SR 56 Spur.
A $22.28-million project started on November 1, 1997 both resurfaced and expanded 6.12 miles of Interstate 520 from the Columbia County line, north of I-20, to U.S. 1 (Deans Bridge Road). Work included rehabilitating the concrete roadway, raising six bridges and expanding two other spans among other improvements.1 The six-laning of I-520 coincided with resigning of the freeway in 2000 to use mileage based exit numbering. This included the replacement of all remaining button copy signs and those needing exterior illumination.2
The first of several extensions for Interstate 520 east and north opened on July 31, 1998. A $41-million, five mile section of freeway opened to traffic following a ribbon cutting ceremony. The extension lengthening I-520 east from New Savannah Road (Exit 10) to Sand Bar Ferry Road was approved in February 1989, with work on paving and bridge construction started in 1995.3
With origins dating back to 1971,5 construction on the first phase of Palmetto Parkway kicked off at a ground breaking ceremony held on November 12, 2002.4 The $43-million project extended Interstate 520 northward to U.S. 1-78-278 (Exit 17) in North Augusta, South Carolina. Work culminated at a ribbon cutting ceremony held on the new Savannah River bridge along the parkway on June 22, 2004.5
A unanimous vote by the South Carolina Transportation Infrastructure Bank on March 24, 2005 allocated $95 million for the second phase of the Palmetto Parkway.5 When work finally began on January 2, 2007, costs increased to $127 million on six miles of new road, four interchanges and 13 new bridges.6 An additional $18 million was added to the phase as approved in mid January 2008 for widening of Clearwater Road to five lanes, expansion of U.S. 25 to six lanes, the building of a new eight-lane bridge for U.S. 25 above Interstate 20, and the addition of the multi use Palmetto Parkway Trail from Ascauga Lake Road south to S.C. 125 (Atomic Road).7
The Palmetto Parkway portion of Interstate 520 opened two weeks early and $600,000 under budget after a ribbon cutting ceremony held on December 16, 2009. Total costs for both phases of the parkway was $275 million.8
Work at the west end of Interstate 520 took place between 2007 and October 31, 2009 as part of a $191 million upgrade of the former full cloverleaf interchange with Interstate 20 and SR 232. Construction replaced two of the loop ramps at the exchange with flyovers, while widening Bobby Jones Expressway southward with c/d roadways to a reconfigured interchange with Wheeler Road. The work was originally scheduled for completion on July 31, 2010,9 but was formally completed after a ribbon cutting ceremony held on November 12, 2009. Adjacent work expanded I-20 from a point east of Warren Road to the Savannah River.10
Further expansion of Interstate 520 took place between March 2012 and January 2015. Work totaling $33-million added a lane in each direction between U.S. 78/278 (Gordon Highway) and U.S. 1 (Deans Bridge Road) while also removing loop ramps at the respective cloverleaf interchanges.11