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Transportation group develops top 10 priorities

POSTED: August 7, 2014 12:50 a.m.

Transportation planners have crafted a top 10 list of needs in an effort to develop a long-range plan for the Hall County area.

In no particular order, the list incorporates some priorities that may seem obvious to motorists, such as maintaining existing roads and addressing “areas of congestion.”

But the list, released as a draft by Norcross-based consultant Pond & Co. at a recent transportation meeting, also considers alternate ways of getting around, such as transit, bicycles and old-fashioned foot power.

The need for some type of commuter bus service from Hall County to or at least toward Atlanta has been expressed by some area elected officials, said Brian Bolick, Pond vice president.

“That could be sensing ... a recognition that as the area continues to grow, it’s going to take
longer and longer to get (to Atlanta),” he said.

“From an economic standpoint, that (service) could be important, as well, in providing access to those jobs, to make Hall County a viable place for people to live and still work in those areas.”

Officials have long talked about some kind of Hall link to Gwinnett Transit, which now takes commuters from a state Park & Ride lot off Ga. 20 and Interstate 985 in Buford to Atlanta. Also, commuter bus service is available at a Park & Ride lot off Hamilton Mill Road in North Gwinnett, about 3« miles from Hall.

One option that’s been discussed is using the Park & Ride lot off I-985’s Exit 17 near Oakwood as a future hub for transit service.

Oakwood City Manager Stan Brown said he believes a study of future transit should include bus and rail lines.

“When you look at the input you’re getting and the desire for alternative transportation, I think both of those are desired,” he said.

With railroad tracks running through it, Hall County factors as a possible commuter route in the Atlanta to Charlotte Passenger Rail Corridor Investment Plan project, which the Georgia Department of Transportation is leading on behalf of the Federal Railroad Administration.

The priority list also shows the need to build a “bicycle trail network,” an area where officials have made some initial headway already.

In March, the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization’s decision-making policy committee voted to approve a $146 million bicycle-pedestrian plan that features 39 recommended projects, including 10 “high-priority” ones estimated to cost $39 million. The MPO serves as the Hall County area’s road
planning agency.

And in July, an MPO committee was formed to talk about possibly kick-starting “some early-action” projects.

“There’s several things I think we can do as a good demonstration of how to connect some stuff together,” Brown said at the time.

The MPO, which is holding its second community meeting tonight on the long-range plan, has much to consider as it works to prepare the document by August 2015.

In addition to revenue concerns, especially at the federal level, officials also have more territory to cover in the plan update.

As a result of 2010 census numbers, the MPO’s boundaries have grown to include a part of West Jackson County, particularly the Braselton area, which includes a stretch of Interstate 85.

Also, the MPO will need to consider a long-term Gainesville transportation plan developed last year.



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