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Flowery Branch considering traffic light at busy intersection

POSTED: December 22, 2008 5:00 a.m.
TOM REED/The Times

Trucks back up on Thurmon Tanner Parkway while waiting to turn onto Phil Niekro Boulevard. Flowery Branch officials have approved a study of whether a traffic light at the intersection would help ease congestion.

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FLOWERY BRANCH — As Oakwood prepares to complete the northern end of Thurmon Tanner Parkway in tandem with the state, Flowery Branch is looking at possibly adding a traffic light to the opposite end.

The City Council has voted to go forward with a study on whether a light is needed at Thurmon Tanner’s starting point at Phil Niekro Boulevard and then, if warranted, a preliminary design of the project.

The city will spend between $3,500 and $13,700, depending on how far the work goes.

If the initial study determines a signal isn’t warranted, "essentially the project dies there," said the city’s planning director, James Riker.

Many South Hall motorists might argue the improvement is needed, as traffic backs up Thurmon Tanner to turn left on Phil Niekro and headed toward Interstate 985 or the heavily congested, retail-laden Spout Springs Road.

Traffic gets particularly nasty at rush hour and other busy times.

Flowery Branch "has received several complaints about this intersection from citizens and, as the final phase of Thurmon Tanner is finished in Oakwood, the increase in traffic flow will eventually be substantial," said City Manager Bill Andrew in a report to the City Council.

The traffic study not only will consider the number of cars at the intersection but also the safety of motorists traveling through it. Motorists turning left on Phil Niekro have a limited sight distance of motorists headed on Phil Niekro from the city to I-985.

One source of traffic at the intersection is the 456-unit TreePark Apartments that sits off Thurmon Tanner not far from Phil Niekro.

TreePark’s property manager, Beth Hogan, said she hopes the project can be justified and then completed.

"I know when I leave to go home, I have to turn left ... and it’s treacherous," she said. "I think it would it be wonderful for my residents to have easy access to the shopping and places where they need to go."

The project has drawn interest from Hall County in terms of substantial help with construction costs, Riker said.

"That’s all dialogue. I have not seen anything in writing to say that," he added.

However, Riker said, "I would think this is an opportunity where perhaps if (the project) is warranted that we have contributed what we can and then the county would be able to foot (the) bill, which I would suspect would be very expensive."

Nearby Oakwood is spending $175,000 for a new traffic light at McEver Road and H.F. Reed Industrial Parkway.

The project is set to be completed early next year, Assistant City Manager Patti Doss-Luna said.

Oakwood has worked with the state Department of Transportation to build the final 1.3-mile leg of Thurmon Tanner.

The project, which will cost $6.7 million, involves extending Thurmon Tanner from Plainview Road to Mundy Mill Road. It is expected to start in the spring and be completed by Dec. 31, 2010.

Upon its completion, Thurmon Tanner Parkway will link Phil Niekro Boulevard to Atlanta Highway in Oakwood at the new Exit 17 interchange off I-985.

The four-lane road is expected to spur commercial and industrial development — office buildings already have sprouted — and serve as an alternative route to I-985.

The two roads run parallel to each other, much as Interstate 85 and Satellite Boulevard in Gwinnett County.

The Flowery Branch end of Thurmon Tanner still has large tracts of undeveloped land, with much of the city’s commercial growth taking place on the eastern side of I-985 at Spout Springs and Hog Mountain roads.


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