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Groups work on strategy to create network of multiuse trails

POSTED: November 13, 2013 5:52 p.m.

About a half-dozen city and Hall County leaders met Wednesday to continue developing a plan to better connect communities through a web of multiuse trails.

Architecture, engineering and planning firm Pond & Co. is working with the groups to create a strategy for that. The meeting looked at existing bike and pedestrian trails, and participants discussed their ideas about how best to create a connected trail system.

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

The MPO serves as Hall’s lead transportation planning agency.

“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. The next round of those meetings is scheduled to begin in February. His firm is also finishing a master transportation plan for Gainesville.

The bike/pedestrian plan would be woven into 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.

“Today we just really want to discuss connections,” Fangmann said to the half-dozen leaders attending Wednesday’s meeting.

Pond & Co.’s Brian Bolick and Allie Looft led the group through a PowerPoint presentation. It outlined previous bike and pedestrian investment and what other areas are doing to create connections between cities. That included efforts to connect residential areas with amenities such as libraries, schools and parks.

Attendees highlighted not only the recreational aspect of biking and walking but the need for safe pathways for those without access to other transportation.

They also discussed balancing need to cost, identifying intermediate alternatives for long-range goals and branding the entire system while maintaining separate trails’ distinct identities.

Srikanth Yamala, MPO director, earlier said this 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.


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