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Survey: Mixed support for Gainesville road projects

POSTED: September 15, 2013 11:30 p.m.

Two of six key projects in the Gainesville master transportation plan have solid support, while residents are divided over a project involving a new bridge over Lake Lanier, according to online survey results released by the city’s consultant in the effort.

The survey involved 74 responses to questions posted July 1-Aug. 15 on the city’s website.

People marked one of five responses: strongly dislike, dislike, somewhat support, support and strongly support. The percentage of those in favor was based on the support and strongly support responses and those against was based on the dislike and strongly dislike responses.

“Take it for what it is,” said Michelle Alexander, who serves in planning/community involvement for Norcross-based consultant Pond & Co., at a recent transportation focus group meeting.

“It’s folks who chose to get on the Web page to give you a response. It is another form of input.”

At 62 percent in favor, respondents gave their strongest support to extending Downey Boulevard east to Interstate 985, where an interchange would be built, “to provide capacity for future traffic growth at the I-985 interchanges,” the survey states.

Only 18 percent were opposed to the project, while the remaining 20 percent somewhat support the project.

The other project picking up stronger support than opposition is widening Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard from Queen City Parkway to Downey Boulevard to four lanes with a landscaped median — improvements geared to providing “additional east-west traffic capacity.”

Conversely, an optional plan to improve east-west flow — creating a one-way pair of eastbound and westbound streets using MLK and High Street from Queen City to Downey — only received 26 percent in favor. At 51 percent, more than half of the respondents opposed the project.

One of the master plan’s most discussed projects involves a new road connecting Ga. 53/Dawsonville Highway to Ga. 60/Thompson Bridge Road, work that would involve construction of a bridge over Lake Lanier.

Survey results show 48 percent in favor and 45 percent opposed. The remaining 7 percent somewhat support the project.

A map produced by Pond shows the route possibly affecting such streets as Ahaluna, Skyview, Mountainview and Springview drives.

The proposal has met opposition at community meetings on the transportation plan, which is near completion.

A flyer at one meeting had been distributed to residents near the affected roads, asking them to “Say ‘No’ to increasing traffic in this neighborhood!” and “demand the original Sardis plan be implemented.”

For many years, Hall County planners and engineers have studied building a four-lane road from the Sardis area to Thompson Bridge, possibly in the Mount Vernon Road area. Right-of-way acquisition is projected to cost $24 million. Construction is expected to run about $46.3 million.

The mixed survey results “aren’t surprising to me, because these are controversial issues,” said Richard Fangmann, Pond’s director of transportation planning. “But we aren’t seeing overwhelming (opposition to) those projects that are controversial.”

Projects involving Green Street — another hot spot in the roads plan — also got mixed support.

For example, converting Green from Academy Street to Riverside Drive to a four-lane boulevard with a 20-foot landscaped median earned 43 percent in favor and 40 percent against.

However, 51.6 percent of respondents — or a majority — heavily favored a left turn ban on motorists turning from Green onto side streets as a short-term fix to traffic congestion on the four-lane road. Green Street connects downtown Gainesville to north Gainesville and beyond via a historic district.

Just 16 percent said they favored “unbalanced lanes” on Green, which 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.

Another 10 percent said they were in “favor of either of these short-term operations projects. Just do something soon!”

Pond now plans to solidify the list, which features projects based on three time frames, or tiers — 2013-20, 2021-30 and 2031-40 —and submit it to the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization, Hall County’s lead planning agency, where it will be considered as part of next year’s update of the 2040 Metropolitan Transportation Plan.


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