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Road work ahead?

DOT construction projects in Hall may slow after 2008 as DOT looks to future

POSTED: September 14, 2008 5:02 a.m.
SARA GUEVARA /The Times

Construction workers smooth out concrete Tuesday along Atlanta Highway.

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Bill Evans knew progress was headed his way - he had a clue about it in 1956.

That was when he first saw state plans that showed a wider Winder Highway.

"I was a senior in high school in Oakwood and Chrysler was looking at some property in Oakwood to build a plant," said the 70-year-old lifelong Hall County resident.

"What they wanted to do was four-lane Winder Highway to Winder to have accessibility to the railroad down there."

The Chrysler plant never happened, nor did the road project.

But the Georgia Department of Transportation eventually came calling on Evans and his wife, Dianne, wanting his property for a $25 million effort to widen Winder Highway, or Ga. 53, from Ga. 211 to Cedar Ridge Drive in Oakwood.

The couple moved to a nearby lot on Bolding Road, and the Georgia Department of Transportation got busy tearing down trees and grading up red clay.

With the project scheduled to end Dec. 31, area residents -- and motorists traveling Hall's busy roadways -- should see a slowdown in work that has kept crews busy throughout the county for the past couple of years.

The heaviest amount of work will continue to take place at Exit 16 and Interstate 985.

The $75 million rebuilding of the interchange involves the construction of access lanes and a new interchange off Atlanta Highway, where the DOT maintains a field office across from the Blackshear Place Library.

Otherwise, the $30 million widening of Dawsonville Highway from Duckett Mill Road to Lake Ranch Court and Old Sardis Road is set for final completion on July 31.

And a $1.6 million effort to add turn lanes at I-985's interchange at U.S. 129 is set to wind up this month.

The state is scheduled to complete by April a $2.2 million project involving the resurfacing of Ga. 60, from Poplar Springs Road to Jesse Jewell Parkway.

The contractor is planning to begin that work this month, according to the DOT.

The state could begin construction this fall on the final leg of Thurmon Tanner Parkway, which now runs between Plainview Road in Oakwood to Spout Springs Road in Flowery Branch.

The $9 million four-lane road, which could take two years to complete, also would connect to a four-lane road that was built as part of the Exit 16 reconstruction project and runs between Mundy Mill Road and Atlanta Highway.

Government officials have long envisioned Thurmon Tanner as Hall County's version of Gwinnett County's Satellite Boulevard, a four-lane road running parallel to Interstate 85 and dotted on either side largely by office buildings.

The state also is considering resurfacing Ga. 284 from Old Cleveland Road in Hall to Dahlonega Highway in White County.

However, there is a chance both the Thurmon Tanner and resurfacing projects could be delayed, said Mark D. McKinnon, a DOT spokesman.

"The department has major funding issues that affect everything we do, so this is a proposed schedule and not set in stone," he said.

He said the DOT is going through a "project prioritization" that could be finished in September.
Oakwood City Manager Stan Brown is eyeing the South Hall projects carefully.

He said that, with the completion of the Exit 16 work and Thurmon Tanner Parkway, "I would anticipate seeing some redevelopment occurring (in the area)."

Hall County has a slew of other road projects that have been talked about for years but have yet to see ground broken -- and probably will stay on the drawing boards for a while.

One of the biggest of those is the Sardis Road Connector, a four-lane road between Sardis and Chestatee roads in northwest Hall to Thompson Bridge Road in North Hall.

Another is the widening of Friendship Road in South Hall between McEver Road and Ga. 211 - a route frequented both by area residents and Lake Lanier visitors.

Srikanth Yamala, senior transportation planner for the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization, said his agency receives a lot of calls on the Friendship Road project.

The agency serves as a planning arm for the Georgia DOT and has published a long-range transportation plan, which is available on its Web site.

Yamala said the agency also hears a good bit from residents on the widening of rapidly developing Spout Springs Road that runs between Flowery Branch and Braselton -- a project cited as falling between 2014 and 2020 in the agency's long-range plan.

"We made sure that all of our local concerns (were) forwarded to the DOT and we are definitely looking forward to the final (prioritization)," he said.

Meanwhile, residents and business owners are eagerly waiting for a wrap-up to the road work that is reshaping much of Hall's landscape.

Joseph M. Hock, who owns Chestnut Mountain Chiropractic on Winder Highway off Bolding Road, said he believes the widened road "will be able to better serve our patients and take care of our neighbors."

He said he would like to see the DOT install a traffic light at Bolding Road. He said he has seen a bad wreck at the intersection and is afraid there could be more.

Evans, relaxing last week in front of his workshop off Bolding Road, said he wasn't opposed to moving to a new home.

"I'm not against progress," he said. "The house I was living in was built in 1948 ... and traffic had gotten to the point that it was a nuisance.

"... But after I moved here, it took me a year to get used to it -- the quietness and not hearing all the noise."



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