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DOT plans to retrace early engineering as it moves forward with Exit 14

POSTED: February 17, 2013 1:00 a.m.

The Georgia Department of Transportation will have to backtrack some before it moves forward on the long-proposed Exit 14 project off Interstate 985, officials say.

To complete an environmental impact study on the project, officials must restart parts of preliminary engineering, work that’s expected to cost $800,000 — $640,000 from the federal government and $160,000 from the state.

Preliminary engineering wrapped up more than seven years ago and “anytime that happens, you need to go back and update some aspects with regards to traffic counts, travel patterns and so forth,” Hall County planner Srikanth Yamala said last week.

That phase of work began in 2001, when plans called for right-of-way acquisition to begin in 2005-06, said Teri Pope, the DOT’s district spokeswoman.

So, the road “was expected to be in use by now,” she said.

“The data was valid and the project was expected to move faster than it did,” she said. “When the economy slowed and GDOT funding dropped, timelines for projects slowed down, too. No one could’ve predicted that.”

The Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization, which oversees transportation planning for the area, proposes to reflect Exit 14’s funding change as part of its 2012-17 Transportation Improvement Program.

The group’s technical coordinating committee, a group of area government planners and engineers, gave its OK Wednesday and now the measure goes to its decision-making policy committee for final approval on March 12.

“I think we’re on track (with the project),” City Manager Stan Brown said Wednesday.

The public also can have a say on the matter, as the MPO has opened up a public comment period that started Feb. 10 and runs through March 12.

A legal ad published Feb. 10 directs those interested in the project to the county’s planning department, which is in the Hall County Government Center, 2875 Browns Bridge Road, Gainesville.

Exit 14, between Oakwood and Flowery Branch in South Hall, has been in the works for years as a way to help move traffic between two major north-south arteries, McEver Road and Ga. 13/Falcon Parkway.

The proposed road would connect H.F. Reed Industrial Parkway at Thurmon Tanner Parkway to Martin Road at Falcon Parkway.

Government and business officials also have touted the project as key to economic development in South Hall. It also was part of the roads list for the failed 1 percent transportation sales tax referendum in July.

At its Nov. 7 meeting, the policy committee split on whether to make the project a top priority.

“There are (a) lot of other roads in (Hall County) that need work besides Exit 14,” Gainesville Mayor Danny Dunagan said.

Oakwood Mayor Lamar Scroggs, who pushed for Exit 14’s top placement, said he believed the move shows “support for the industry and commercial (development) that we have, that we have demonstrated in (that) area.”

Officials at King’s Hawaiian, a California-based bakery operating a plant off H.F. Reed Industrial Parkway, “are ... asking me is (the project) going to happen and when is it going to happen,” Scroggs said.

“This is something we have committed (to) and promised we would work on,” he added.

The MPO’s 2012-17 document shows right-of-way acquisition taking place in 2016-17.


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