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Some $750 million invested in Hall County road projects

POSTED: February 25, 2009 12:47 a.m.

Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce President Kit Dunlap holds SPLOST signs up for anyone wanting to display one at the conclusion of Tuesday morning's annual transportation forum at Gainesville State College.

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OAKWOOD — Nearly $750 million has been invested in Hall County road projects — either completed in the past year or so, under way or in the works, a state official said at a transportation forum Tuesday afternoon.

“What this community has done to ... move transportation forward has been impressive,” said Russell McMurry, Georgia Department of Transportation district engineer, in the gathering of business and community leaders at Gainesville State College.

One of the most visible projects, a $74 million makeover of Interstate 985 at Exit 16, is moving along quicker than expected, he said.

The northbound ramp from Mundy Mill Road to I-985 is set to open Thursday, ahead of the March 1 projection.

And the overall project, which also involves the construction of a new interchange, Exit 17, now is expected to be completed in December and possibly sooner, instead of February 2010, McMurry said.

“The project has gone amazingly well,” he said at the annual event put on by the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce. “We understand it has had a daily impact to your life and businesses, and we appreciate your patience.”

The project’s total cost, including design and right-of-way acquisition, is $124 million.

Construction is expected to begin soon on the final leg of the Thurmon Tanner Parkway between Plainview and Mundy Mill roads in Oakwood.

Clearing for the four-lane road should start in a couple of weeks. The $16 million project should be finished by Dec. 31, 2010.

When finished, Thurmon Tanner will run from Phil Niekro Boulevard in Flowery Branch to Atlanta Highway in Oakwood.

McMurry, who described the projects using a slide show of aerial photographs, also talked about the widening of Ga. 347/Friendship Road from McEver Road to Ga. 211/Old Winder Highway, crossing I-985. That project is expected to cost $127.3 million.

The work will be divided into two segments: a heavily commercialized strip running from McEver Road to I-985 and the more residential stretch between I-985 and Ga. 211.

The residential stretch, which includes Friendship Elementary School, is estimated to cost nearly $100 million, with $39 million devoted to acquiring right of way, McMurry said.

So far, the DOT has acquired 50 of 231 needed parcels.

“We have two solid years left to go (in that effort),” McMurry said.

A new exit off Interstate 985 between Flowery Branch and Oakwood, connecting H.F. Reed Industrial Parkway to Martin Road, is in design now, with the work ultimately expected to cost nearly $80 million, he said.

Steve Farrow, a Dalton attorney and the 9th District representative on the DOT board, talked to the group about the state receiving $1 billion for transportation from the just-passed federal economic stimulus law.

“It has to be (spent on) a project that’s ready to go,” he said.

The money mostly will benefit maintenance-type projects, Farrow said.

“As most of you can imagine, if a project already has the right of way acquired, the environmental work done, the engineering work done, chances are we’re already under way doing that project,” he added.

“There are not a lot of projects just sitting up the shelf that are ... ready to go.”

The economic stimulus money “is not really going to move the needle very far as far as building a future road network in Georgia,” but “it will free up state dollars and other federal dollars to do the work that needs to be done on new roads,” Farrow said.


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