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Browns Bridge Road may get improvements if T-SPLOST passes
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Browns Bridge Road improvements have resurfaced as a possibility if voters approve the 1 percent transportation sales tax July 31.

Jody Woodall, a Hall County civil engineer, said Wednesday that as part of a local funding scenario under the tax, the county is looking at some improvements on Browns Bridge Road, “possibly a center left-turn lane, maybe some intersection improvements.”

He was speaking at Wednesday’s meeting of the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Technical Coordinating Committee.

The Transportation Investment Act, which mandates the referendum taking place in 12 regions throughout the state, calls for 75 percent of revenues generated by the tax to pay for regional projects and 25 percent to go to local governments to spend as they see fit.

As part of the regional list, Hall County planners originally considered a proposed widening of the busy Browns Bridge Road/Ga. 369 between McEver Road and Forsyth County in its share of an estimated $1.25 billion in road projects over 10 years.

But then leaders decided in August to pull the project in favor of widening Ga. 211/Old Winder Highway from Ga. 53/Winder Highway to Gwinnett County.

“Ga. 211 would connect two new four-lane (roads) and the new hospital, (and) that will be a model for transportation planning,” said Tom Oliver, chairman of the Hall County Board of Commissioners, at the time.

Srikanth Yamala, transportation planning manager for the MPO, said after Wednesday’s meeting that the Browns Bridge Road project might go beyond mere tweaking.

The Georgia Department of Transportation could wind up “talking to us about leveraging state and federal dollars” for a more extensive widening project, he said.

Woodall said other possible county projects under the 25 percent funding include improvements to McEver and Skelton roads and Old Cornelia Highway.

Everything hinges on the July 31 vote, which has been met with fierce opposition, including tea party leaders. The Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce and the state chamber are pushing for approval.

The referendum will be decided in each region, with a majority plus one vote required for passage.

The regional projects were set in the fall by a transportation roundtable comprising government leaders from the 13-county Georgia Mountains region, which includes Hall, and can’t be changed.

However, governments have flexibility with 25 percent of the money. “It is really fluid,” Yamala said.

Hall, overall, is estimated to receive $4.7 million annually from the 25 percent portion, with unincorporated Hall receiving about $3.8 million.

Hall and Forsyth counties — by far the largest counties in the region — would each get about $300 million for regional projects.

As for the local projects, Oakwood City Manager Stan Brown said at Wednesday’s meeting that “they are not being dreamed up.”

“These are existing needs,” he said. “In some cases, like our pavement management program, due to the fact that (special purpose local option sales tax) funds aren’t coming in at projected levels, we are underfunding those (efforts).

“And ... at some point, we’re going to see the impact out there on our roads. If we can’t do the life cycle maintenance that’s needed and keep a reliable funding source for that, then we’re going to suffer the consequences ... or have to look at other funding sources.”

Also, at the meeting, David Fee, MPO transportation planner, talked about commuter surveys at state Park and Ride lots on Interstate 985. A survey was conducted from 6-9 a.m. on three different workdays over a 30-day period at lots off Exits 4, 16 and 17, he said.

“Commuters were asked a series of standard questions to determine commuting patterns, and a license plate survey by county was conducted to determine specific usage,” Yamala said.


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