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Transportation planning group OKs bike plan

POSTED: March 12, 2014 12:54 a.m.

An area transportation planning group gave its OK Tuesday to a $146 million bicycle-pedestrian plan that now will be considered in a long-range transportation plan update for Hall County that is slated to be completed by 2015.

“That’s a pretty big price tag, but when you look at it in comparison to the couple billion dollars in your overall transportation plan, you’re talking about not a large percentage — you’re talking about less than 10 percent,” said Richard Fangmann of Pond & Co., a Norcross firm serving as consultant in the plan.

Pond & Co. had worked for several months with a Gainesville-Hall County Metropolitan Planning Organization advisory group on the plan, looking at possible routes, potential costs and funding sources, as well as names for the trail network.

The MPO is Hall County’s lead transportation planning agency.

The bike/pedestrian plan features 39 recommended projects, including 10 “high-priority” ones estimated to cost $39 million. It involves connections between cities, such as Lula to Gillsville, and tourist destinations, including Don Carter State Park, which opened last year.

The MPO’s policy committee — a decision-making group comprising top elected officials from Hall and its cities — gave its blessing Tuesday morning to the plan.

One major consideration in the plan is whether road projects include room for cyclists and pedestrians.

Sam Baker, the MPO’s senior transportation planner, told the committee the Georgia Department of Transportation’s proposed U.S. 129/Cleveland Highway widening between Limestone Parkway and Nopone Road “does not have a bicycle/pedestrian component.”

“I think that for the U.S. 129 north (project), we should definitely let GDOT know as soon as possible ... of our needs for bicycle and pedestrian facilities along this particular corridor,” said Srikanth Yamala, Hall County planning director and the MPO head.

Gainesville Mayor Danny Dunagan said he believed the MPO should adopt a “complete street” policy, which would address “different modes of transportation.”

“If we don’t start doing it on these future projects, then they’re never going to get done,” he said.

Oakwood Mayor Lamar Scroggs agreed.

“It’s much cheaper being ahead of (the project) than behind it. It’s always better to take care of projects before other things happen.”

The update of the long-range document, known formally as the 2040 Metropolitan Transportation Plan, is required because of Hall’s inclusion in an air-quality nonattainment zone.

In a separate vote, the committee recommended the Hall County Board of Commissioners select Pond as the consultant in that effort.

Pond is one five companies that have submitted bids to do the work, with its contract costing $179,307. That was the second-lowest bid, with the lowest bid of $144,080 submitted by Moreland Altobelli Associates of Norcross.

Already underway is the Central Hall Multiuse Trail, a 15-mile trail running through portions of Gainesville and South Hall.

Right-of-way acquisition is taking place on a stretch of the trail starting at Palmour Drive in Gainesville, then running along Ga. 13/Atlanta Highway to near Frontage Road, including through the historic Chicopee Village.

The second phase will run from the Georgia Department of Labor office off Atlanta Highway to near Lanier Technical College and the University of North Georgia’s Gainesville campus.

The work would include construction of a pedestrian tunnel under Ga. 13.

Gainesville has completed the first phase of the Midtown Greenway, which is at the northern end of the trail network, with a second phase designed to run between Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Industrial Boulevard.

The city has a conceptual drawing of the greenway’s third phase, extending the trail southward from Davis Street to Queen City Parkway at Aviation Boulevard.


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