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Firm starts work on bike/pedestrian study for Hall County

POSTED: November 6, 2013 12:40 p.m.

Now that it’s wrapping up a traffic study for Gainesville, a Norcross firm is looking to update a Gainesville-Hall County plan to accommodate bicycles and pedestrians.

Pond & Co. is working to “develop a strategy and list of projects to provide an interconnected multiuse trail network” for Hall County, as well as build upon a current trail system.

Richard Fangmann, director of transportation planning for Pond, spoke Wednesday to the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization’s policy committee, a decision-making group that includes top Hall elected officials, about the effort.

“We want to have improved connections between and within communities, transportation alternatives for citizens without cars and recreational benefits,” he said.

The goal is to complete the update of the study by the next cycle of MPO committee meetings, Fangmann said. His firm is finishing a master transportation plan for Gainesville.

In addition to the policy committee, the MPO, which serves as Hall’s lead transportation planning agency, has a group of area engineers and planners and a group of area residents who meet quarterly, with the next round of meetings set to start in February.

The bike/pedestrian plan would be woven into the MPO’s update of its 2040 Metropolitan Transportation Plan, a schedule of area road projects and their estimated costs through 2040. The update is set to begin in January and be completed by August 2015.

Srikanth Yamala, MPO director, said the effort marks the first time since the organization’s start in 2004 that the county and all of its cities — including Buford and Braselton, which stretch into other counties — are contributing, including financially, to an overall bike/pedestrian plan.

“I think it speaks volumes about the fact that Gainesville-Hall County and its cities are looking at alternate transportation modes,” he said.

“And (they’re) trying to make sure that this particular plan might integrate well within their individual land-use comprehensive plans so they can enhance their connectivity overall when it comes to providing bicycle and transportation facilities.”

Oakwood Mayor Lamar Scroggs, one of the policy committee members, said he can “see this being a network and a broad plan that we really need to start looking at further in the future.

“I can see some funding sources that will probably be discussed in the future,” such as the special purpose local option sales tax, now used for infrastructure and other government projects, he said.

“The roads today are not bicycle-compatible,” Scroggs said. “Automobiles and bicycles just absolutely don’t mix. I’ve driven 18-wheelers over 4 million miles, and I know what the situation is.”

Fangmann said the area already has had “many successes in trying to get pedestrian and bicycle elements implemented.”

He cited Gainesville’s Midtown Greenway as an example. The first phase of the greenway, which is a multiuse trail from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to north of Parker Street, was finished in 2012. City officials said recently they’ll try to start the second phase, which runs from MLK to Industrial Boulevard, in 2014, even though it’s scheduled for 2015.

The third phase calls for extending the trail east to the Fair Street neighborhood, and the fourth phase extends south to the Central Hall Multiuse Trail that Hall County is developing.

The Central Hall trail would run parallel to Ga. 13/Atlanta Highway from Palmour Drive to the Georgia Department of Labor Office at 2756 Atlanta Highway. A second phase calls for running the trail behind Lanier Technical College and the University of North Georgia’s Gainesville campus.

A third project calls for construction of a pedestrian tunnel under Atlanta Highway.

Bidding on the project could take place in April.

“Sometimes, those (projects) take a while to get the funding and all the mechanisms in place, to really get those things rolling,” Fangmann said.


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