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Howard Road gets more scrutiny by transportation planners

POSTED: July 17, 2013 2:36 p.m.

Before Wednesday, Howard Road at Ga. 365, one of Gainesville’s busiest traffic spots and the scene of tragic crashes, wasn’t mentioned in Gainesville’s list of recommended transportation improvements.

That may change now.

Richard Fangmann of Pond & Co., the city’s consultant in the study, was giving a presentation Wednesday morning to a transportation planning committee, when Hall County Board of Commissioners Chairman Richard Mecum broke in and asked about the intersection.

“I don’t know if that’s one we’ve looked at specifically, but I can get with (the city) and see if we need to address that a little more specifically.”

Traffic Engineer Dee Taylor said the crossing had been studied earlier.

“We’re looking at some realignments, taking into account all the industrial growth that’s occurring up (nearby) Ramsey Road,” he said.

“We can take a little more look at that area,” Fangmann said, speaking to the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Technical Coordinating Committee, which is made up of planners, engineers and various city and county leaders.

The MPO is Hall County’s lead transportation planning agency.

Gainesville is set to complete a draft document of the master plan in the first couple weeks of August. Last week, the city released a preliminary list of 41 recommendations as part of efforts to complete a transportation master plan in August.

Recommendations vary widely across the city, addressing some of the most heavily traveled roads, including Green Street, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Jesse Jewell Parkway and Dawsonville Highway.

Projects include new roads, such as one crossing Lake Lanier between Ga. 53/Dawsonville Highway and Ga. 60/Thompson Bridge Road and one connecting Downey Boulevard to Interstate 985, creating a new interchange.

Also featured are improvements to existing roadways, as well as bicycle and pedestrian paths.

Final recommendations ultimately will be considered for inclusion in the MPO’s short-term Transportation Improvement Program and long-term Metropolitan Transportation Plan.

Area engineers, law enforcement, state lawmakers and government officials met Monday with the Georgia Department of Transportation at its Athens Highway offices to discuss safety at Howard Road.

“We’re continuing to have some accidents out there ... but there are some T-bone crashes, and you’d think the signal would address those,” DOT District Engineer Bayne Smith said at the time. “I think we’re really going to focus on what’s causing those.

“If people are obeying the signal, those shouldn’t be happening.”

Gainesville police Cpl. Kevin Holbrook has said that preliminary information in Friday’s wreck shows that the pickup was traveling southbound on Ga. 365 when it attempted to make a left turn in front of a northbound tractor-trailer owned by Fieldale Farms.

The collision caused a chain reaction in which a Ford Escape struck the rear of the overturned tractor-trailer, he said. A Jeep Wrangler was struck possibly after the initial collision.

Authorities have identified those killed in the crash as Raymond McGowan, 36, of Gainesville, who was driving the pickup; Autumn Holton, 17, of Lula, who was in the passenger seat; and Robbin Chitwood, 57, of Lula, a passenger in the Escape.

Holbrook has said that authorities “are reviewing the accident to determine whether alcohol and/or drugs was a contributing factor in the collision.”

City officials gave the DOT a list of recommended improvements, including “rumble strips,” or raised markings on the pavement that alert motorists to a potentially dangerous area; more lighting at the intersection; reducing the speed limit from 65 mph; and signals that allow motorists to turn left only on a green arrow, or “protected left.”

Since earlier this year, Gainesville and Hall County officials have considered ways to improve traffic flow throughout the largely industrial area, including a possible truck route. As part of the endeavor, Gainesville firm Moreland Altobelli Associates was contracted to study a possible realignment of Howard Road from Ga. 365 to White Sulphur Road.

Fangmann said he would meet with Taylor on other potential improvements.

“We don’t want anything to fall between the cracks, if there is something needed more than what they are proactively doing now,” he said. “We want to make sure we don’t fail to put that in (the plan), so I apologize if we didn’t look at that well enough.”


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