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Area officials applaud transportation bill

POSTED: April 27, 2010 11:59 p.m.
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Steve Gooch

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With an estimated $170 million in needed road improvements, Hall County stands to gain from a transportation bill passed last week by the Georgia General Assembly.

That is, if voters give their approval to a 1-cent tax for transportation.

“It’s not a comprehensive bill, but it’s definitely a good start,” said Srikanth Yamala, transportation planning manager for the Gainesville-Hall County Metropolitan Planning Organization.

The state DOT’s most significant project in Hall County is the completion of the final stretch of Thurmon Tanner Parkway, a $9.1 million road connecting Plainview and Mundy Mill roads in Oakwood and running parallel to Interstate 985.

When completed in December, the four-lane parkway will run from Atlanta Highway in Oakwood to Phil Niekro Boulevard in Flowery Branch.

Otherwise, orange barrels are fairly scarce in Hall County, as projects are either in a pre-construction phase or have been shelved due to the lack of funding.

Yamala cited a few projects that need attention, include the widening of Spout Springs Road in South Hall, construction of the Sardis Road Connector in West Hall and building a new I-985 interchange between Flowery Branch and Oakwood.

“Any additional transportation funding we can get will definitely help Hall County in terms of economic development and moving people,” Yamala said.

The legislation that won overwhelming approval in the House and Senate will divide Georgia into 12 regions and ask voters in each region whether to hike the sales tax by 1 cent to pay for roads, bridges and rail projects in that part of the state.

Only those regions that approve the sales tax increase would have the money to spend.

The vote would take place during the 2012 presidential primary.

“The only downside, if I can see one, is it is three years before this thing really takes effect,” said Steve Gooch, the 9th District’s representative on the State Transportation Board. “We need some help now.”

The Lumpkin County resident added that while “now is not a good time for anybody to ... take more money out of their pockets to put into any kind of government program, we’ve got to have some money for transportation solutions.”

“At least there’s a plan now in place and we’ll see if the people support it at the ballot box.”

Kit Dunlap, president of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, said the new tax would “give us an opportunity to be a little more in control of our transportation issues.”

“As we go along, with the region, it will be interesting to see ... if we can come to some consensus in a year or two about our needs,” she added. “... The hardest part is going to be the education and communication to the public about the vote.”

State Rep. Carl Rogers, R-Gainesville, who serves on the House’s transportation committee, said the funding issue has been a tough one for lawmakers, “with all the different geographic areas throughout the state.”

Much of the focus has been on metro Atlanta and serious congestion problems in and around the city.

“It could be only one region passes this,” he said. “It may just be metro (Atlanta). We’ll see how it plays out.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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