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 the 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
$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