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DOT board Chairman Evans effusive in praise for Hall County

'You were there for me, and I’ll be there for you for the next five years'

POSTED: March 1, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Ga. 60 from Ga. 136 to Ga. 400: Plans call for a four-lane divided highway. Design phase is under way, with right of way acquisition ($43 million) in 2009. Estimated construction cost: $37.7 million

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Re-elected chairman of the State Transportation Board Mike Evans thanked the residents, chamber members and officials in Hall County for supporting him in the "bare-knuckled brawl" that nearly kept him from serving another term on the DOT board.

"I would not be here were it not for Hall County," Evans told a group of officials from across the county who gathered Tuesday at Gainesville State College for an update on DOT construction projects.

Evans was re-elected to the board earlier this month despite House Speaker Glenn Richardson’s efforts to keep him from returning. Richardson had been sore over Evan’s decision to vote for Gena Abraham as the DOT commissioner.

Officials and chamber members from across Hall County made it clear in the months before the board election, however, that they wanted Evans to stay.

"I’ll never forget Hall County," Evans said. "You were there for me, and I’ll be there for you for the next five years."

Evans said $1.2 million of the allotted $4 million for District 9 would be spent in Hall County this year, and promised that any funding applications for Transportation Enhancement, such as greenways and bicycle paths, would be granted.

The DOT’s district engineer for Gainesville said more than $132.9 million worth of construction projects are currently under way in Hall County.

Russell McMurry, engineer for DOT District One, said the amount is a testament to Evans’ dedication to the area.

"I can’t say that about other counties," McMurry said.

Five projects are currently under way — some ahead and others behind schedule — in what McMurry called "the year of the barrel in Hall County."

Still, the DOT has to find a way to fund all the road construction that is necessary to support the county’s growth. The department has to come up with nearly $750 million in future projects that have not yet been funded, such as the widening of Ga. 60, McMurry said.

"We have a lot more needs than our budget can currently handle," McMurry said.

Instead of making the projects wait, the state will have to quickly identify new ways to increase funds for transportation, McMurry said.

"These are all good projects," he said.

McMurry did not know how to increase transportation funding, but he said it is a good sign that there are efforts in the state legislature to find a way.

"I don’t know what the answer to that is," McMurry said. "I’m just proud that there’s an acknowledgement that transportation funds are needed."


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