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Dahlonega in early stages of downtown pedestrian improvements
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Pedestrians are everywhere in downtown Dahlonega and governement officials are looking for new ways to keep them safe as they travel about the public square.

Anthony Smith knows the value of “foot traffic” at The Fudge Factory, a long-time fixture on the Dahlonega square.

Simply put, more pedestrians mean the potential for more business, said the manager of the business off East Main and North Park streets.

“If they can add parking and extend sidewalks, I think it would help a lot,” Smith said of planned pedestrian and other improvements in the downtown area.

He and others will have to hang on a bit.

Paperwork is still being completed between the city and federal and state officials, as the grant award was smaller than requested, said Joel Cordle, director of the Dahlonega Downtown Development Authority and Main Street Program.

“We had to spend some time scaling back the scope of the project and the budget and changing the timeline,” he said. “We’re almost complete with those adjustments.”

Next steps would include final design, environmental impact review by state and federal transportation staff, right of way and easement work, and some utility relocation, Cordle said.

Construction could begin in September 2016.

Work focuses particularly on pedestrian safety efforts, including sidewalks and crosswalks, but also stormwater, curb and gutter improvements and landscaping in the tourist-heavy central business district.

Dahlonega had sought $8.8 million but was awarded $5.1 million last year from the federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program, or TIGER.

As part of the project, officials hope to improve connections between downtown, surrounding neighborhoods and the University of North Georgia.

In addition to providing “critical” sidewalks, crosswalks and pedestrian lighting, the work is geared to easing bicycle travel.

“A major problem we have is parking, so anything we can do to encourage pedestrian and bicycle traffic to take some of the automobiles out of the equation is certainly desirable,” said Hal Williams, who owns two downtown commercial properties.

“And anything we can do to … facilitate safety, when you start mixing automobiles, bicyclists and pedestrians, we want to do that as well.”

Some areas lack sidewalks and curb and gutter for storm water runoff, Cordle said in an earlier interview.

“There are zero pedestrian lights on South Chestatee Street and downtown is very, very busy at night,” he said. “There are hardly any crosswalks on South Chestatee.”

Dahlonega thrives on visitors, festivals and such, so the town may appear pedestrian-friendly, but there are issues the city struggles with.

“You’ve got a daytime perspective and a nighttime perspective,” Cordle said. “Nighttime is particularly rough.”

He said that once pedestrians get off main roads around the square, “all the side streets leading to the apartments and houses have zero sidewalks, curb and gutter and lights. It’s like country roads.”

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