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No plans to move, but Gainesville post office open to options

POSTED: July 23, 2013 12:39 a.m.

The U.S. Postal Service doesn’t have any plans to move its Green Street branch — a longtime traffic hot spot that is being revisited in Gainesville’s transportation master plan.

“Given the current financial state of the Postal Service, moving the post office is not something we are considering at this time,” said Michael Miles, spokesman for the agency’s Atlanta district.

However, “we always are open to discussing ... possible solutions that would improve the customer experience at the current location,” Miles said.

Green Street has been a focal point in Gainesville’s traffic study, an effort involving city officials, Norcross-based consultant Pond & Co. and public input through a transportation focus group and open-house meetings.

The busy road is a major artery moving traffic from downtown to North Hall via Ga. 60/Thompson Bridge Road and U.S. 129/Cleveland Highway. Running through a historic district, it has long been a source of backups and other troubles, such as flooding during torrential rains.

Motorists often sit idling on Green, waiting for oncoming traffic to pass before turning into the parking lot at the post office, which sits off Green near E.E. Butler Parkway and Academy Street. Or patrons will enter the parking lot, then stop, waiting for a parking space to open, blocking the entrance and creating another backup on Green.

The post office location has been a longtime thorny issue for Gainesville.

Mayor Danny Dunagan recalls the issue being discussed when Gov. Nathan Deal served in Congress as the 9th District representative.

Dunagan said there was talk about a joint venture to build a retail location in Midtown Gainesville. The Postal Service “wouldn’t hear of it, at all,” he said.

Later, the city talked with the agency about closing the front entrance in exchange for the city doing road improvements on Academy Street “so the traffic could flow a little better and let that be the (new) entrance to the post office.”

“And (postal officials) turned that down,” Dunagan said. “We’ve done everything we can to either try to get them to relocate or do something to help the traffic on Green Street, and they have not been very accommodating.”

He said talks on the issue also have involved the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce and Hall County government.

Miles said, “This goes back so long and there are other folks who would know more about this than I do, but my impression is it just seems what (local officials) were offering, what that they thought was a reasonable idea, we didn’t see as a reasonable idea.”

Discussions, including the possibility of the acquisition and donation of a site that could be used to relocate the facility, “never progressed to the point that any action was taken,” he said.

City officials have talked among themselves recently about “going back to the post office and see if they would close the parking in front ... and just (have) a drop-off lane at the mailboxes,” Dunagan said.

As part of that effort, some improvements could be done in the back of the facility for customers interested in parking and then going into the post office, he said.

Loree Anne Thompson, spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, said as a member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Collins has been very involved in discussions to reform the Postal Service.

“And part of that debate has involved moving retail postal offices to new locations.”

Collins believes the agency “should have the flexibility to operate effectively, while moving toward fiscal and efficient reforms that have the potential to save millions in government spending,” Thompson said.

“It’s always the preferable option to use local control and community input, and that remains the congressman’s stance in regards to the location change of the downtown Gainesville facility.”

Collins “has been to this post office many times, and he understands the significance this building brings to (the) downtown area,” Thompson said. “Our office will continue to monitor this issue closely.”

Ironically, a nationwide trend of declining post office visits might end up easing traffic woes, at least some.

“We don’t build new post offices any more, for a variety of reasons — finances being one, but also, the fact is people visit post offices far less than they once did,” Miles said. “Just as they mail less, they go to the post office less.

“I would think that (traffic in front of the Green Street post office) would be better today than it was a few years ago, but I don’t have any hard numbers on that.”

Earlier this month, the city released a list of preliminary recommendations addressing traffic issues citywide. Among its “mid-term” suggestions for Green was to add a northbound right-turn lane and a southbound left-turn lane at the post office entrance.

Possible short-term fixes to Green Street traffic — ones that don’t “affect the existing curbs — include banning left-turns onto side streets along the corridor, at least during peak hours, or restriping to “unbalanced lanes.”

Green now has four lanes — two for southbound traffic and two for northbound. Unbalanced calls for one lane for southbound traffic, two lanes for northbound traffic and a center turn lane.

A proposed long-term fix is converting Green Street to a boulevard between Academy Street and Riverside Drive, featuring a 20-foot-wide landscaped median and “streetscape” elements, such as pedestrian lighting and trees on both sides of the road.

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

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


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