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Eyes on the Road: Roads to be hot issue in legislature

POSTED: December 17, 2012 12:18 a.m.

After seeing this past summer’s public rejection of a transportation sales tax, state lawmakers may be gearing up to figure out a possible “Plan B” in the upcoming General Assembly.

But just what that will be isn’t clear yet.

“We will continue to look at ideas and I think the ideas we take forward now will be from the governor, and hopefully he’ll come up with some more ideas,” said Rep. Carl Rogers, R-Gainesville, at Thursday’s Eggs & Issues Breakfast sponsored by the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce.

State Rep.-elect Lee Hawkins, R-Gainesville, said 30 percent of the DOT’s budget goes to debt on past projects, “so one thing I think we need to look at is restructuring the revenue stream.”

State Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, said the gas tax currently used to fund projects “is not the answer.”

“It’s a short-term fix, at best, as our economy changes, as technology changes, automobiles are getting better gas mileage and you’ve got alternative (energy sources), like electricity.”

Miller added: “We need to restore faith in government and competency of our agencies. We need to do simple things first, whether they’re roundabouts or shoulder bus lanes. I believe every new project should have a pedestrian and bicycle (component).”

Howard Road area could see more Gainesville police cars

Gainesville police and the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety have discussed a possible plan to deputize city officers to help with enforcing traffic laws in the Howard Road area of Ga. 365.

Officers “would have jurisdiction over unincorporated areas,” Gainesville City Councilman Bob Hamrick said at the council’s Thursday work session.

“That would be great to deputize our people because we’ve got very little jurisdiction up through there,” Mayor Danny Dunagan said.

Chief Brian Kelly said such a move would involve “a lot of logistical hurdles.”

“It’s easy to say ‘deputize,’ (as) there’s a lot of things that play into that when you give that authority,” he said.

Kelly did say he has spoken with Harris Blackwood, the highway safety office’s director, on the matter.

“There is a little spot of Howard Road that’s within the city, but both sides north and south of that are county jurisdictions,” the chief said.

The Hall County Sheriff’s Office is the major law enforcement agency in unincorporated Hall. Also, the Georgia State Patrol keeps watch over Ga. 365 and other state routes.

Area law enforcement, including Gainesville police, has studied traffic conditions at Howard Road and Ga. 365 and “determined we weren’t seeing a lot of reasons for crashes being speed-related.

“A majority of them are failure to yield while turning and following too closely. We’re not seeing lack of enforcement to be a major issue (at the intersection). It has a lot to do with the lay of the land.”

Howard Road became a major public issue earlier this year because of numerous wrecks, including a fatality on April 28, at the intersection.

Gainesville worked with the Georgia Department of Transportation and RaceTrac, which has a convenience store at the intersection, to make improvements.

A new traffic signal started operating there in late October.

Government officials are now talking about a possible realignment of Howard Road from Ga. 365 to White Sulphur Road.

Jeff Gill covers transportation issues for The Times. Share your thoughts, news tips and questions with him:

jgill@gainesvilletimes.com

facebook.com/jeffagill

@JeffGTimes


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