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As county grows, roads become clogged
While Halls population has grown, the number of vehicles has also grown
The square in downtown Gainesville circa 1955.

Although now he can’t travel around Hall County without being interrupted by a traffic signal every few blocks, Andrew Morters remembers when things were quite different.

“I used to live out on Dawsonville Highway, close to the Sardis area. Back then, there weren’t any (signals); it was just a two-lane highway,” said Morters, who has lived in Gainesville since 1977.

“You could just cruise doing 55 mph. I could get from out that way to the other side of Gainesville in pretty much 20 minutes. Nowadays, with all of the lights, you can’t get very far in 20 minutes.”

In the 1970s, Hall County’s population was much smaller than it is now. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were only around 60,000 Hall residents in 1970. Forty years later, that population has more than tripled, and Hall now is home to more than 188,000 people.

More residents equals more vehicles on the road. And even when the population isn’t growing, the number of vehicles on the road continues to grow.

For instance, according to the Federal Highway Administration, in 1960 the average household nationwide included three people and 60 percent of households had just one vehicle. By 2000, the average household size dropped to two people, yet the number of households with two or more vehicles increased to 55 percent.

The administration also reports that the number of people per vehicle dropped from three in 1960 to just one in 2000.

In the last 10 years alone, the number of vehicles registered in Hall has increased by more than 45,000. According to the Hall County tax office, there were 113,895 registered vehicles on the books in 2000; today, there are more than 160,000.

To accommodate those extra drivers officials have had to make a number of roadway improvements, including adding more traffic signals and other features.

“(This) has been my happy home for more than 40 years,” said William B. Edmonds, a Gainesville resident.

“I think it is fortunate that someone had the forethought to make four-lane entrances to the downtown area. (I think it allows a) far better traffic flow than what existed with two lanes.”

Although the additional lanes have made it a bit easier to get into downtown, there are some drivers who stifle progress by blocking intersections, Edmonds says.

“Two of the worst places downtown are trying to turn left on Green Street, rather than continuing on Academy Street, and the other is trying to turn left on Race Street from Jesse Jewell Parkway — going north or south,” Edmonds said.

“I have always found it odd that the only noticeable ‘Do Not Block Intersection’ signs are understandably in front of the current police and fire stations. I am not advocating that we have signs at all intersections, but that all of us use courtesy and obey the law to keep intersections open and available to others.”