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Eyes on the Road: Thoroughfares get discussed at legislator breakfast

POSTED: December 15, 2013 11:00 p.m.

Transportation wasn’t the hottest issue on the menu, but it did get some airing at the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce’s annual Eggs & Issues Breakfast on Thursday.

Rep. Timothy Barr, R-Lawrenceville, whose district includes South Hall, said he would like to see “a long-term plan laid out.”

Rep. Lee Hawkins, R-Gainesville, said “I know it’s not very popular in North Georgia,” but the state needs to consider an east-west corridor connecting interstates 75 and 85.

Generally speaking, “if we look at smart solutions, we can solve some (transportation) problems without pouring more and more money into it,” Hawkins said.

Lawmakers referred some to the regional transportation sales tax shot down by voters in July 2012 in much of the state, including Northeast Georgia.

“We do need to look at, if we do (reconsider) a penny sales tax and bring it before the people; we’re not conditioning everyone just like a bunch of cattle,” said Rep. Emory Dunahoo, R-Gainesville. “What happens is we put a penny out there, and we never take it away.”

Dunahoo said he thinks government “can earn the trust back” of voters if it gives strict assurances about how the money would be spent.

State Rep. Carl Rogers, R-Gainesville, reminded the audience of about 400 people the Transportation Investment Act that enabled the sales tax vote is in force in three regions that passed it.

Those Middle Georgia areas “will advance tremendously on new roads,” he said.

Sen. John Wilkinson, R-Toccoa, whose district includes a small part of East Hall, said he didn’t think that, regarding transportation, “we can continue to do things the way we’ve always done them.

“With new technology, I think there will be some new things on the horizon that maybe we haven’t discussed that would be very helpful.”

Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, said he believes “we’ve got to have a plan that people can buy into and are willing to invest in.”

“For us to take money and dedicate it to transportation, it’s going to have to be a constitutional amendment,” he said. “That’s the only way ... the general public will be convinced that the legislature won’t divert that money for something else. The legislature has a long history of doing that.”

After the breakfast, the legislators held meetings with various government and school groups to hear their priorities.

The Hall County Board of Commissioners had little to say about transportation but included the topic on a list of legislative priorities.

“We would like for state officials to keep us well informed as to what is on the horizon as far as addressing (the issue),” according to a handout officials gave to legislators.

DOT commissioner praises crew for response to safety hazard

The Georgia Department of Transportation’s Jackson County maintenance crew was honored last week for responding quickly to a safety hazard in Braselton.

The crew responded to a motorist’s concern that a tree off Ga. 53 might drop one of its walnuts on a passing vehicle and crack a windshield. It was a windy morning and the motorist’s vehicle had been hit by one of the walnuts.

Later that day, the crew trimmed the branches overhanging the road.

“The motorist called back to our office on her commute home and was most appreciative to see the work already complete,” said DOT Commissioner Keith Golden, who presented the December Commissioner’s Customer Service Commendation to the crew.

“The quick action and thorough response of this team makes them an asset to Georgia DOT.”

The crew, which works out of the Athens Area Office, is supervised by Floyd Phillips, assistant area engineer for maintenance.

Crew members are Erik Lance, maintenance laborer, of Talmo; Taylor Coile, maintenance laborer, Nicholson; Jeremiah Owensby, maintenance equipment operator, Commerce; Stevie Hayes, equipment operator I, Braselton; and Dennis Little, equipment operator III, Lula.

Jeff Gill covers transportation issues for The Times. Share your thoughts, news tips and questions with him:

jgill@gainesvilletimes.com

facebook.com/jeffagill

@JeffGTimes


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