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Parts of Jackson may add to Hall road planning

POSTED: December 23, 2013 12:30 a.m.

Jackson County leaders said they think joining with Hall County will work in their favor when it comes to road planning.

The Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization is expanding its transportation planning area next year to include a couple of areas in Jackson County, particularly fast-growing Braselton and Hoschton.

“There’s some things that Jackson County has — Interstate 85, (parts of) U.S. 129 and our rail access — that we need to bring up and really plan for that Gainesville-Hall hasn’t looked at before,” said Gina Roy, director of Jackson County’s public development department.

“I think we’ll bring some new light and new ideas and hopefully broaden (Gainesville-Hall’s) region.”

When the 2010 census was released, it showed Jackson had experienced urbanized growth in three areas: a small portion near the East Hall border, the Braselton-Hoschton area of West Jackson and a small area on the Clarke County border.

Jackson County has signed an agreement with the Athens-Clarke County MPO to include the area on the Clarke side in that MPO’s transportation planning efforts.

The portion near East Hall would be considered part of the Gainesville-Hall MPO and the Braselton-Hoschton area would be in the Atlanta Regional Commission.

“We sat down, met with and discussed with all three MPOs about what would be the best advantages for us and where we would get more out of our transportation planning,” Roy said.

“Even though we have a larger portion with ARC, we’re still so far out of metro that I’m afraid we ... would be just a minor blip on their big agenda,” she added. “I don’t think we would get a full benefit.”

To take care of road planning in the remaining areas, Roy said, two agreements would have to be signed, including one among Jackson, Gainesville-Hall MPO and ARC that says ARC relinquishes the Braselton-Hoschton planning area to Gainesville-Hall.

The other one would be between Jackson and Gainesville-Hall MPO to do planning in the Jackson County areas.

The Georgia Department of Transportation “hasn’t set this drop-dead date that we have to (complete the agreements),” Roy said. “We know that we need to do it. That’s why we’ve been working on it. It’s been kind of a slow process.”

She said she hopes agreements will be in place by early summer.

Jackson County has to file its five-year comprehensive plan with the Georgia Department of Community Affairs in 2015 and the plan has to include transportation features.

“From a transportation planning perspective, they have more of a connection to Hall County than Atlanta,” said Srikanth Yamala, Hall’s planning director and the Gainesville-Hall MPO director.

Much of Braselton is in Hall County, particularly in the Spout Springs Road area. Hall County is planning to widen Spout Springs to four lanes between Interstate 985 in Flowery Branch to Braselton in the Thompson Mill Road area.

Also, skirting or running through the Braselton-Hoschton area in Hall is the DOT’s widening of and new construction involving Ga. 347 between I-985 and Ga. 211/Old Winder Highway.

“Anytime we can look at transportation options and choices when they’re crossing county borders, it will only be helpful for the entire region,” Yamala said.

Another result of the Jackson County agreement is an expansion of the Gainesville-Hall MPO’s policy committee, a decision-making group comprising a DOT representative and top elected officials in the area.

Also, the Gainesville-Hall MPO’s 2040 Metropolitan Planning Plan is slated for an update, with work set to begin next year and be completed by August 2015.

Part of Flowery Branch also fell in the ARC after the 2010 census, but the South Hall city is staying put in the Gainesville-Hall MPO.

“For our purposes, we are more closely aligned with Hall County and Gainesville,” Mayor Mike Miller said. “It didn’t make sense for us to be in the ARC. There’s no possibility that we would even entertain that option.”


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