Interstate 985 Georgia

Interstate 985 Georgia
History
North End
South End

Overview

I-985 is the second highest numbered Interstate in the system, with only I-990 outside Buffalo, New York numbered higher. Interstate 985 both acts as a commuter freeway joining the Atlanta metropolitan area with Lake Lanier and the city of Gainesville and a part of a long distance route for U.S. 23 to the north Georgia mountains. Although still rural in appearance, suburban growth adds traffic to the route with some sections more urbanized in design. 70 mile per hour speed limits are posted throughout the 24-mile route.

All of Interstate 985 doubles as both SR 365 and unsigned SR 419. U.S. 23 accompanies the route from Exit 4 northeast to the Interstate end at U.S. 129 on the east side of Gainesville. U.S. 23 extends northeast from there as an expressway toward Clarkesville and Toccoa.

Construction to extend the I-85 Express Lanes northeast from Old Peachtree Road to Hamilton Mill Road expanded the wye interchange with I-985 to include an Express Lane overpass. Provisions were made to the southbound overpass for I-85 to accommodate future expansion of I-985. The $178-million project started on August 3, 2016. Work extended through Summer 2018.4

History

I-985 was approved as an Interstate Highway by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) on December 7, 1984. The freeway was previously constructed between August 1962 and December 1969 as a new alignment for U.S. 23.1 The highway was built instead of Interstate 85, which shifted southward in 1959 from a proposed route by Gainesville, Cornelia and Toccoa to an alignment east from Suwanee to Commerce and Lavonia. Efforts by Governor Ernest Vandiver resulted in the corridor shift for I-85, which ran through Franklin County, his home area.3

According to Steve Williams, until 1985 the freeway was simply known as State Route 365, despite the merge of U.S. 23 from the first exit (SR 20 – former Exit 1). Once the limited access portion ends in Gainesville, the highway is signed as U.S. 23/SR 365 to Cornelia. SR 365 eventually splits north of Cornelia, joining SR 17 and U.S. 123 as it goes through Toccoa en route to the South Carolina line. Locals started referring to the limited access portion as “985” once it was signed accordingly.

Work completed in 1991 extended the four-lane corridor along SR 365 east from I-985 at Gainesville to Toccoa.3

Route Information

  • North End – Gainesville, GA

  • South End – Suwanee, GA

  • Mileage – 24.04

  • Cities – Gainesville

  • JunctionsI-85

Source: December 31, 2018 Interstate Route Log and Finders List

I-85/985 split - Suwanee, GA

Several large-scale subdivisions surround the area of the I-85/985 split to the east and west while the industrial section of Suwanee borders the wye interchange to the south. The Mall of Georgia lies between both freeways along SR 20 (Buford Drive).

Atlanta and Northeast Georgia - 1969
The I-985 freeway initially opened north to Georgia 20 (Buford Drive). The remainder opened in 1969 as Georgia State Route 365.

The north end of the freeway along SR 365 tied into Old Cornelia Highway, which was then both U.S. 23 and SR 13. Old Corelia Highway east from Gainesville today is unnumbered to SR 52, which remains along the route north toward Lula.

$74.6-million in construction at Oakwood included the construction of an interchange (Exit 17) with SR 13 (Atlanta Highway) and the addition of collector distributor roadways between it and adjacent Exit 16 with SR 53 (Mundy Mill Road). The work was completed between June 8, 2006 and July 31, 2009.2

A diamond interchange was constructed on Interstate 985 with H.F. Reed Industrial Parkway at Exit 14. The project extended H.F. Reed Industrial Parkway south from parallel Thurman Tanner Parkway across I-985/U.S. 23 to the intersection of SR 13 and Martin Road. The exchange cost $34 million to build, and it fully opened to traffic on January 30, 2020.5

I-985@Martin Rd-New Interchange-Hall County

Highway Guides

North End – US 129 Business Georgia 369 just northeast of Gainesville, Georgia

I-985 US 23 US 129 North at US 129 Business SR 369

I-985/US 23-129 north at SR 369 - Gainesville, GA

Northbound Interstate 985, U.S. 23-129/SR 365 wrap around the northeast side of Gainesville to Exit 24 with SR 369 west and Jesse Jewell Parkway east. 07/02/14

I-985/US 23-129 north at SR 369 - Gainesville, GA

One half mile ahead of the diamond interchange (Exit 24) with U.S. 129 north and SR 369 west. U.S. 129 originally followed a combination of Green Street, Riverside Drive, Morningside Drive and Park Hill Drive before shifting onto a bypass of Gainesville to the east via I-985 and Limestone Parkway. 07/02/14

I-985/US 23-129 north at SR 369 - Gainesville, GA

A pair of end signs for Interstate 985 were installed along Lanier Parkway northbound at the Old Cornelia Highway overpass in 2014. 07/02/14

I-985/US 23-129 north at SR 369 - Gainesville, GA

U.S. 129 splits with I-985/U.S. 23 north to combine with SR 369 west to nearby Limestone Parkway. Limestone Parkway takes the highway north as a commercial arterial to outer reaches of Lake Lanier while en route to the White County seat of Cleveland. SR 369 combines with U.S. 129 Business south to Downtown Gainesville. 07/02/14

I-985/US 23-129 north at SR 369 - Gainesville, GA

Spanning Jesse Jewell Parkway, Interstate 985 concludes with this set of end signs. U.S. 23/SR 365 transition into an expressway ahead of the intersection with Howard Road. 07/02/14

US 23 Georgia 365 South at I-985 US 129 SR 369

I-985/US 23-129 north at SR 369 - Gainesville, GA

U.S. 23/SR 365 upgrade to a freeway south of the at-grade intersection with Howard Road. Exit 24 with U.S. 129 north / SR 369 (Jesse Jewell Parkway) west follows in one mile. 10/26/15

I-985/US 23-129 north at SR 369 - Gainesville, GA

U.S. 129 follows Limestone Parkway south along the east side of Gainesville. U.S. 129 briefly combines with SR 369 (Jesse Jewell Parkway) east to I-985/U.S. 23 south at Exit 24. 10/26/15

I-985/US 23-129 north at SR 369 - Gainesville, GA

Jesse Jewell Parkway leads west as both U.S. 129 Business south / SR 369 to Downtown Gainesville. The state route travels 36 miles west across Lake Sidney Lanier to Coal Mountain and SR 20 in Cherokee County. Connections with U.S. 19/SR 400 lead south to the Forsyth County seat of Cumming. 10/26/15

I-985/US 23-129 south at SR 369 - Gainesville, GA

Running southwest along eastern reaches of Gainesville, the first reassurance marker for Interstate 985 south omits U.S. 23/129. U.S. 129 splits with the freeway at the ensuing exit. 10/26/15

I-985 North End Throwback

I-985 US 23 US 129 North

I-985/US 23-129 north at SR 369 - 2005

Replaced guide signs incorrectly identified Exit 24 with U.S. 129 Business instead of the U.S. 129 mainline. A supplemental shield indicated U.S. 129 ahead of the exit gore point instead. 07/21/05

I-985/US 23-129 north at SR 369 - 2005

SR 369 ends at the interchange with I-985 opposite Jesse Jewell Parkway east to Old Cornelia Highway. The forthcoming exit previously presented the north end of SR 13, which navigated along a fish hook route east and then west onto Old Cornelia Highway. SR 369 replaced the northernmost portion of the route through Gainesville. 07/21/05

I-985/US 23-129 north at SR 369 - 2005

Area development, including New Holland Shopping Center, adds traffic to the previous rural diamond interchange (Exit 24) between Interstate 985, U.S. 23, U.S. 129 and SR 369. 07/21/05

US 23 South at I-985 US 129

US 23/SR 365 south at I-985/US 129B - 2005

Older guide signs for Exit 24 from U.S. 23/SR 365 south also referenced U.S. 129 Business instead of the U.S. 129 mainline. U.S. 129 Business forms an L-shaped route west along Jesse Jewell Parkway to Downtown and Athens Highway southeast from there to Exit 22. 07/21/05

US 23/SR 365 south at I-985/US 129B - 2005

As U.S. 23 combined with I-985/U.S. 129 south, the speed limit increased to 70 miles per hour. 07/21/05

South End I-85 – near Suwanee, Georgia

I-985 SR 365 South at I-85

I-985/US 23 south split - Buford, GA

U.S. 23 south separates from Interstate 985 at Exit 4 with SR 20 (Buford Drive). The remainder of I-985 bee lines to Interstate 85 south ahead of Suwanee. 10/26/15

I-985/US 23 south split - 2008

All guide signs for Interstate 985 were replaced by 2013. Previous guide signs used the former GDOT condensed Highway Gothic font standard at the diamond interchange (Exit 4) with SR 20 (Buford Drive). 12/31/08

I-985 south at I-85 - Suwanee, GA

Interstate 985 southbound spans Ivy Creek before merging with I-85 south ahead of Exit 111 for SR 317 (Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road). 07/13/05

I-85 North at I-985

I-85 north at I-985 - Suwanee, GA

The Express Lane exit for Interstate 985 follows the diamond interchange (Exit 111) joining I-85 with SR 317 north and Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road. 10/22/15

I-85 north at I-985 - Suwanee, GA

Continuing beyond SR 317, Left Exit 113 departs in 0.75 miles for Interstate 985 north. 07/02/14

I-85 north at I-985 - Suwanee, GA

Interstate 85 branches eastward from the wye interchange (Exit 113) with I-985 toward Braselton and Jefferson in adjacent Jackson County. I-985 stays to the north through the Buford area. Both freeways are commuter routes through north Gwinnett County. 07/02/14

I-85 north at I-985 - Suwanee, GA

Part of a 22 mile route to the Hall County seat of Gainesville, Interstate 985 leads north toward Buford Dam and Lake Lanier Islands. I-85 north reaches the South Carolina state line in 66 miles. 07/02/14

I-985 South End Throwback

I-85 north at I-985 - 2005

These signs for both Interstate 985 north and SR 317 north were replaced when I-85 was expanded by a fifth northbound lane to Exit 111. 05/28/05

I-85 north at I-985 - 1996
I-85 north at I-985 - 1996

Original button copy signs posted at the I-85/985 split (Exit 45). I-85 reduced to a four-lane freeway beyond this exchange. 06/05/96

Sources:

  1. “Happy Birthday to the open road.” Gwinnett Daily Post (Lawrenceville, GA), June 25, 2006.
  2. “Interstate 985 exit overhaul awarded at $75 million.” Forsyth County News (Cumming, GA), June 8, 2006.
  3. “Interstate 85 through Hall? It very nearly was Gov. Ernest Vandiver redirected highway plans in 1950s.” The Times (Gainesville, GA), April 13, 2005.
  4. “Georgia Department of Transportation Breaks Ground on I-85 Express Lanes Extension Project.” Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT), press release. August 3, 2016.
  5. “Exit 14 now fully operational on Interstate 985.” The Times (Gainesville, GA), January 30, 2020.

Page updated October 26, 2020.