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The Road Ahead: Banks County projects focus on safety

POSTED: June 18, 2012 12:30 a.m.
Tom Reed/The Times

Brad Day, Banks County Planner/Developer, explains the need for proposed projects to be paid for by the transportation tax.

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Safety is key to three Banks County projects proposed as part of the Georgia Mountains Region’s 1 percent sales tax for transportation.

If the tax is approved on July 31, Tanger Drive would be moved so that it connects with Faulkner Road off U.S. 441. A new traffic light also would be part of the new intersection.

Also proposed are turn lanes and a traffic signal at Ga. 98 and Ga. 164/Old 441; a project that includes relocating Athens Street onto Evans Street; and widening Ga. 51 to three lanes, with a center turn lane, in front of Banks County Primary School.

The three projects combined would cost a total $9.3 million and would take place between 2013 and 2019 under a 10-year schedule that has been laid out for all the region’s projects.

“We’re hoping that congestion and dangerous locations are mitigated by the projects,” said Brad Day, community developer for Banks County.

Tanger Drive now empties onto U.S. 441 close to Interstate 85. Under the proposed rerouting, what used to be Tanger Drive will remain but the intersection will only allow cars to turn right onto or from U.S. 441.

“There’s too much traffic there and accidents probably happening because people try to get in the middle lane (to turn),” said Greg Bucknowski, owner of Pool and Spa Clearance Center, just off Faulkner and U.S. 441.

“I come off I-85 all the time and I’m always maneuvering knowing that everybody is gravitating to the middle to make a left (turn).”

The area around the I-85 interchange is a busy stop for travelers, also featuring restaurants, hotels, convenience stores and a smattering of other businesses.

The intersection at Ga. 98 and Ga. 164/Old 441 “is one of the top sites for crashes involving injuries in Banks County,” according to the Georgia Department of Transportation.

As for the Ga. 51 segment in front of the school, “every morning, it’s backed up half a mile or more both ways,” said Milton Dalton, chairman of the Banks County Board of Commissioners.

Dalton also served on the transportation roundtable for the 13-county Georgia Mountains region, one of 12 designated regions throughout Georgia that will vote on the tax. The roundtable settled on the slate of regional projects.

He also cited Tanger Drive as a tricky area to navigate.

“When we have races on the weekend (at Atlanta Dragway), traffic is tremendous,” Dalton said.

But Day also is hoping the projects will serve as an economic boost, particularly in “the next phase of development at the Banks Crossing area with the Faulkner Road project.”

Bucknowski said he hopes his location would become a prime one if the new Tanger Drive is built.

“It would have tremendous impact. It would be good for everybody, but I’d reap the reward,” he said.



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