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Bridge, road projects to keep Hall busy in 2012
Pivotal sales tax vote set to take place July 31
One of the biggest road projects for 2012 will be the widening of Friendship Road in South Hall County. - photo by Tom Reed

Another busy year lies ahead for Hall County road improvements.

But road work could really hit the gas pedal over the next decade if voters approve a new 1 percent sales tax for transportation on July 31.

Teri Pope, spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Transportation's Gainesville-based District 1, said 2012 will mark "the culmination of projects we've been working on for almost a decade."

In particular, the DOT expects to begin work on widening Ga. 347 between McEver Road in Buford to Ga. 211/Old Winder Highway in Braselton, a project it has divided into two phases.

A contract is set to be awarded in February for the widening of Ga. 347/Lanier Islands Parkway between Interstate 985 and McEver, with construction to begin in the spring.

The DOT nearly has all its right of way in hand, with construction estimated to cost $14.1 million.

A contract is scheduled to be awarded in April for the widening of Ga. 347/Friendship Road between Interstate 985 and Ga. 211.

Construction likely will begin this summer on the nearly 8-mile stretch, with the work starting at Spout Springs Road and running to Old Winder Highway in the area where Northeast Georgia Medical Center's Center new South Hall hospital will be built.

Some 255 parcels are needed for the $62 million project, and the DOT has acquired 220, Pope said.

Also planned is a bridge replacement on Ga. 52 at Candler Creek near Gillsville. The $2.5 million project could be awarded to a contractor in late summer or fall.

The DOT also had planned to begin replacement this year of the Ga. 284/Clarks Bridge Road bridge over Lake Lanier and near the Olympic venue.

However, right-of-way acquisition is on hold while the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, owner of needed property for the project, reviews policies on all the property they own.

"It could be after legislative session (starting in January) or longer for (the DNR) to resume ROW negotiations with DOT," Pope said. "We hope construction begins this fall."

The project, which includes a pedestrian tunnel, is estimated to cost $7.1 million and will take up to three years to complete.

Work also could begin this summer on the Central Hall Multiuse Trail running between Palmour Drive in Gainesville and near Frontage Road in Oakwood, including through the historic Chicopee Village.

When completed, the trail will be 12 feet wide, which officials think should accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists traveling in both directions.

The project involves a tunnel under Atlanta Highway at the state Department of Labor's office.

It won't involve orange barrels and lane closures, but the DOT also is gearing up for other major projects, including the widening of Ga. 13/Atlanta Highway from Suwanee Avenue in Gwinnett County to Lanier Islands Parkway in Hall County.

Right-of-way acquisition for the 1.53-mile project is expected to start this summer, with nearly $10 million set aside to buy 55 parcels.

Construction, estimated to cost $10 million, is expected to start in Georgia fiscal 2015, which begins July 1, 2014.

DOT employees also are busy bargaining with property owners along U.S. 129/Athens Highway between Gillsville Highway and the Pendergrass Bypass, a 6.7-mile stretch.

So far, only seven of 168 parcels have been closed.

Right of way is expected to cost $22.7 million and construction, $38.8 million, on the project, which is expected to begin in fiscal 2015.

"This ... will complete the four-lane divided highway from Gainesville to Athens," Pope said.

It will also complete "the four-lane link from I-985 to I-85, critical for economic development and movement of goods," she added.

Also this year, workers could begin the difficult task of replacing the epoxy driving surface on the westbound bridge on Ga. 53/Dawsonville Highway over the Chattahoochee River and Browns Bridge on Ga. 369/Browns Bridge Road at the Hall-Forsyth county line.

"Work will occur overnights only and require complete closure of the bridge," Pope said of both projects.

The Ga. 53 work will take place in the spring and is expected to take two weeks to complete. The Ga. 369 project is scheduled for the fall, with work taking about three weeks to complete.

A vast number of road projects are planned for beyond 2012 in Hall County and surrounding counties.

Many hinge on or would be sped up by the passage of a 1 percent sales tax called for under 2010's Transportation Investment Act.

Voters statewide will decide whether to pay another penny per dollar on road work, with the issue being decided by districts throughout Georgia.

Hall falls in the 13-county Georgia Mountains district, with Hall and Forsyth counties the major players. Together, they would get about $600 million of the $945 million that fall in the region.

The tax would run until the $945 million is collected but no longer than 10 years.

If it's approved, Hall County's sales tax rate would increase to 8 percent from 7.

But government officials say that, for that money, Hall would get a batch of new road projects, including a new interchange off Interstate 985 in South Hall, completion of the Sardis Road Connector in northwest Hall and widening of Spout Springs Road in South Hall.

The tax has its opponents, with residents saying they're weary of special purpose local option sales taxes.

Much of its support is coming from chambers of commerce.

"Right now, we're just laying the groundwork of getting organized, seeing what's required and identifying people who would speak (in favor of the tax)," said Kit Dunlap, president/CEO of the Hall County Chamber of Commerce.

"We will be doing some fundraising under a separate organization that we've formed, and we'll be meeting or corresponding regularly with the (other) chambers in the (district)."


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