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City holds first transportation public meeting
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Pond & Co. engineer Richard Fangmann, left, discusses Gainesville’s traffic future with longtime Mountain View Drive residents Bo and Brenda Coursey, foreground, on Wednesday at the Gainesville Civic Center as CDM Smith engineer Adam Ivory looks on. - photo by NAT GURLEY

Upon moving to Gainesville in February, Tricia Terrell soon discovered that in-town travel — at least by foot or bicycle — was more than a little tricky.

“We moved here to be able to walk everywhere, to enjoy getting out of a car,” she said at a public meeting on transportation Wednesday night. “I’m really disappointed that (the area) is so car-based, that there’s very little for pedestrians ... and bicyclists.”

It was the kind of feedback Gainesville officials said they wanted to hear as they work toward putting together a transportation master plan.

“The community involvement is about hearing what (residents’) problems are,” said Dee Taylor, the city’s traffic engineer.

Wednesday’s meeting, an open-house format where visitors could study maps and charts and fill out a paper survey, was the first in a series of three the city is holding.

The other two are set for June 27 and Aug. 1, also at the Gainesville Civic Center, 830 Green St.

Also mixed in are meetings by a 10-member focus group at the Fair Street Neighborhood Center, 715 Fair St.

All the meetings will evolve, narrowing in scope and focus, as the master plan progresses toward its estimated completion in August, Taylor said.

By the third community meeting, residents will be able to view a community plan, including specific projects.

The final plan will go to the Gainesville City Council, but its last stop is with the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization, the lead transportation planning agency for the area.

Eventually, it will wind its way to the MPO’s decision-making Policy Committee, with projects being integrated into the agency’s short-term Transportation Improvement Program and long-term Metropolitan Transportation Plan, said Srikanth Yamala, MPO director.

“And then, going forward, we would have to look at securing funding for those projects,” Yamala said.

“We are due an update of the TIP by this summer, but we want to wait until this process is over” before completing the update, he said.

A couple of Gainesville projects in the MPO plans include extending Howard Road from Ga. 365 to Old Cornelia Highway and improvements at the intersection of Jesse Jewell and John Morrow parkways.

Planned for 2031-40 is widening South Enota Drive to four lanes between Park Hill Drive and Downey Boulevard.

One roadway of major concern to residents is Green Street, which starts at Spring Street downtown near the Hall County Courthouse, then travels north, past a junction at E.E. Butler Parkway and to a fork that splits between Ga. 60/Thompson Bridge Road and Ga. 11/Riverside Drive.

Gainesville Mayor Danny Dunagan said Tuesday he wants the Georgia Department of Transportation to look at banning left turns on the road, which is four lanes between E.E. Butler and the fork, and is hugged tightly on either side by historic buildings.

“I’m very interested in what they’re proposing for Green Street,” said Johanna Kiehl, who lives on Ridgewood Avenue, one of Green’s busy side streets, at the public meeting.

Like Terrell, she worries about pedestrian travel.

“I run and walk (on Green Street) and I have kids with strollers and bikes, and it would be nice to feel like it’s safer to walk along Green Street and cross over to the Brenau (University) area,” Kiehl said.

“That’s my biggest concern — reducing speed on Green Street and not feeling like a (vehicle) is going to pop the curb and jeopardize the family.”