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Proposed left-turn ban on Green raises a stir

Business owners don’t support move as a way to ease Gainesville traffic

POSTED: May 19, 2013 12:09 a.m.

A truck makes a left turn Friday on Green Street. Many businesses and others along Green Street would like to see a left turn ban up and down the busy road.

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The potential for no left turns on Green Street has raised hackles along the busy, four-lane road, according to one of its most vocal business leaders.

“I’ve talked to probably 30 property owners on the street ... and I haven’t found a single person who’s for it,” said Frank Norton Jr., president of The Norton Agency at 434 Green St.

A ban is “talked about as the solution to Gainesville’s traffic problem. There are probably 10 or 20 (solutions), and I really don’t have a problem with (the ban) if it’s one of 20 different things.”

The issue surfaced at a May 7 transportation meeting when Gainesville Mayor Danny Dunagan asked the Georgia Department of Transportation to study the matter.

“I think it would move traffic tremendously to ban left turns on Green Street,” he said at the time. “Of course, there’s got to be enforcement as part of it. We can do the enforcement as long as we can get the DOT to go along with us.”

Since the request, Dunagan said he has heard from a few businesses on the street and some frequent users of the road who say they oppose the idea.

“But I have had a tremendous amount of people ... tell me it’s a great idea and something that should have happened a long time ago,” he said.

Green Street traffic long has been a thorny issue for motorists.

It starts at Spring Street downtown near the Hall County Courthouse, then doglegs north, past a junction at E.E. Butler Parkway and to a fork that splits between Ga. 60/Thompson Bridge Road and Ga. 11/Riverside Drive.

Between E.E. Butler and the fork, Green is a four-lane road, hugged tightly on either side by stately mansions and Victorian homes that have been converted into law and doctor’s offices, as well as other businesses.

Along the street, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, left turns onto Green from Holly Drive, North Avenue, Candler Street, Forrest Avenue and the U.S. post office are prohibited from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays.

Green Street traffic has been a hot topic among members of a focus group that’s been created to provide public input on a transportation master plan for the city. The plan is set for completion in August.

Srikanth Yamala, director of the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization, has said it will wind its way to the agency’s short-term Transportation Improvement Program and long-term Metropolitan Transportation Plan.

Dunagan said he sympathizes with businesses and others on Green, which also has the Hall County Board of Education central office and First Baptist Church of Gainesville as neighbors.

“I own a business that’s built on convenience, but I also know the problems on Green Street and the backups they cause,” said the owner of Three D Cleaners in North Hall.

“What would be the best thing to (happen) is the DOT stepping in and doing something about it,” Dunagan said. “That’s what we hope will come out in the traffic study.”

One idea that has been kicked around is roundabouts, one at either fork.

“But for a short-term fix, it would ease traffic to ban left turns,” Dunagan said.

Norton said the issue stretches beyond Green to side and connecting streets.

“Our firm has a back (entrance off Boulevard), but there’s at least 10 or 12 businesses that don’t have back doors,” he said. “How do you get in and out?”

One of those is Full Media, an Internet marketing company at 393 Green St. But its CEO, Kris Nordholz, said he believes “if we limited left turns, I’d have to think it would have an impact on the traffic flow.

“I do think some of the congestion is caused by people turning left. I don’t know what the exact answer is ultimately, but if there was a way to minimize the stopping and starting created by the left turns, I think it would help.”

Full Media also has a driveway in front of the business that can lead motorists off and back on Green, something not lost on many motorists who use it as a turnaround.

“I ought to just sit up here one day and count the cars over a 10-hour workday,” Nordholz said. “It wouldn’t shock me if there were 50 cars a day that turn left into our drive (to make that maneuver).”

Amanda McClure, executive director of the Quinlan Visual Arts Center at 514 Green St., said she hasn’t heard complaints from patrons about Green Street traffic.

“We really haven’t had a problem,” she said. “I think that most people figure out how to get here.”

One issue that has arisen is directing people to other places as they leave the center.

“A lot of times we have visitors from out of town and they want to know where the closest restaurants are,” McClure said. “We tell them where they are and how to get there going through the neighborhood (behind the center) because they can’t turn left onto Green.

“I would do that anyway with such a busy street as that.”

Kit Dunlap, president and CEO of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, which sits off E.E. Butler Parkway near Green, said she has heard both sides in the debate over the left turns.

“We definitely need to look at the long-term fix of getting truck traffic off (the road),” she said. “And everybody knows what (the issue) is: How do we get around the city of Gainesville?

“We’ve got to forget about protecting our own territory ... because as growth comes, we’re going to choke up our city,” she said.


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