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Wednesday January 18th, 2017 3:05PM

Deal: Expansion on 2 Georgia interstates to begin soon

By The Associated Press

ATLANTA (AP) — Expansion projects aimed at relieving traffic congestion will begin soon on stretches of interstate highway in metro Atlanta and Savannah, Gov. Nathan Deal said Tuesday.

Deal told a breakfast of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce that work to widen portions of Interstate 85 in Gwinnett County and I-16 in Savannah is slated to begin in the 2018 fiscal year that starts July 1.

The projects will add lanes along 6-to-7-mile stretches of each interstate. The governor told executives, lobbyists and lawmakers at the chamber's annual Eggs & Issues breakfast that the expansions will reduce traffic delays along each route by one-third to one-half.

The road projects are part of a 10-year, $10 billion plan for transportation improvements Deal announced last year. Construction is being funded by increases in gas taxes and fees lawmakers approved in 2015. Projects approved for the first 18 months include resurfacing of 2,500 miles of highway, replacement and rehabilitation of 418 bridges and the widening of 36 roads.

"As you know from the orange barrels and cones on our roadways, many improvements are already underway," Deal said.

During his remarks at the chamber breakfast, Deal gave no details of the agenda he is scheduled to lay out Wednesday in his State of the State address to the Legislature. He did say his proposed fiscal 2018 budget will recommend a 3.6 percent spending increase over the record $23.7 billion budget lawmakers passed last year.

Deal noted that reserves in the state's rainy day fund now stand at about $2.3 billion — up from merely $116 million when the governor took office in 2011. That puts Deal two years ahead of his goal of rebuilding state reserves to $2 billion by the time his term ends at the beginning of 2019.

"I believe that we will have a reserve of at least $2.5 billion by the time I leave office," Deal said.

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