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Green Street a heavy focus at city traffic meeting

POSTED: April 19, 2013 1:25 a.m.

All of Gainesville’s roads seemed to lead back to Green Street during a two-hour public discussion Thursday night of the city’s traffic trouble spots.

A 10-member Gainesville focus group, created to provide public input on a transportation master plan for the city, held the first of four meetings at the Fair Street Neighborhood Center.

The group talked about roads and intersections all through town, including the notoriously busy Jesse Jewell Parkway at E.E. Butler Parkway.

But much of the group’s conversation focused on Green Street, a four-lane stretch hugged tightly on either side by historic buildings.

The road also serves as a main artery out of downtown, steering motorists to a fork, where they can either travel on U.S. 129/Cleveland Highway or Ga. 60/Thompson Bridge Road, heading to North Hall either way.

Kris Nordholz, CEO of Full Media at 393 Green St., said he wondered whether much of Green Street’s bottleneck was because of “congestion or a lack of continuity of the movement of traffic.”

“It feels like when there’s congestion, it’s not because there is bumper-to-bumper traffic but because somebody stopped to take a left turn and there’s a hundred cars behind (that motorist).

“Widening the road seems like the obvious solution, but I don’t know if it would solve the problem.”

Another focus group member, Stan Appleton, asked, “Is not a quick fix ... just no left turns from 7:30 in the morning to 5:30 in the afternoon?”

The city’s traffic engineer, Dee Taylor, said “one of the things with no left turns is proper signage.”

In talking with the Georgia Department of Transportation, he said, abolishing left turns would mean putting up “two poles on either side and an overhead mounted sign, so then, we get back to the aesthetics issue.”

In earlier comments, Taylor said the city has looked at widening the busy street “to some degree or another, dancing around all the trees and that sort of thing.”

But the consideration has been improvements that keep the quaint character of the road intact, “so we’re not transforming it into a Thompson Bridge Road.”

The focus group is one part of public participation the city is trying to incorporate as part of its roads study, which is expected to be done by August.

The group is set to meet three other times at the neighborhood center, with the next public meeting set for May 2.

The city has scheduled community open-house forums for May 8, June 27 and Aug. 1 at the Gainesville Civic Center, 830 Green St.

Those are designed so “people can come and go at will” and speak to staff officials about any concerns or questions, Taylor has said.

Gainesville also has a traffic survey online at www.gainesville.org. And it has posted a document describing basic information about the study. Both the survey and document are in English and Spanish.

The goal of the master plan “is to improve connectivity in the city for all types of users, making travel easier, safer and more efficient for drivers, pedestrians, cyclists and transit users,” the document states.

Faron Thompson, one of the focus group members, said he believes a traffic plan “at some point isn’t rocket science.”

“If you’re trying to solve this ... you’re going to do one of two things: You’re going to build more roads or widen the ones you got — that is, unless we’re going to have George Jetson zooming around the sky.”

The city hired Pond & Co., a Norcross-based engineering firm, last year to serve as the consultant.

Richard Fangmann, Pond’s director of transportation planning, told the group that Pond’s approach to the study involves several steps, beginning with “defining the problem” areas.

Before seeking a solution, “we really want to think about the context,” he said. “What is the area this problem occurs in? Who’s affected by this? Is this (road) for commuter traffic or local traffic?”

Next up is developing a range of options and then, finally, “some achievable recommendations,” Fangmann said.

The master plan is scheduled for an August completion.


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