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Dawsonville Highway traffic fixes get a boost
Road planners want study done, some projects moved up the priority list

Dawsonville Highway/Ga. 53 traffic in Gainesville isn’t going to get better anytime soon, but road planners are taking a couple of steps to improve the long-term picture.

A committee within the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization, the Hall County area’s lead transportation planning agency, voted Wednesday morning to recommend pursuing federal transportation money to perform a traffic signal/intersection improvement study for commercially booming Dawsonville Highway at McEver Road.

The group, comprising area road planners, engineers and other officials, also recommended reshuffling projects in the area’s transportation plan so that some improvements — such as adding a straight-through lane — along Ga. 53 get done sooner.

Gainesville “is looking at all opportunities for making improvements there, (with) funding at the federal, state and local level to really accomplish the goal … to improve conditions there,” Public Works Director Chris Rotalsky said.

The group’s recommendations will be sent to the MPO’s Policy Committee, a group of top elected officials making up the agency’s decision-making arm. The Policy Committee is set to meet May 2.

Traffic concerns have risen as growth has continued along Dawsonville Highway, particularly in the area around Ahaluna Drive.

In addition to development of the North Lake Square shopping center, a 94-room, 55,635-square-foot Holiday Inn Express & Suites hotel is being built off Dawsonville Highway next to Buffalo Wild Wings and behind Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen.

Further fueling traffic worries is a proposed 820-home retirement community off Dawsonville Highway and Ahaluna. The issue is set to go before the Gainesville Planning and Appeals Board on May 9.

Residents have said they believe traffic fixes should come before any such development is approved.

Clyde Morris, who has spoken out about the need for improvements along Ga. 53, talked again about the issue Wednesday.

“What we’re looking at … is a tragedy that can be averted, but only if you take action,” he said. “... Get us some relief before we reach total gridlock.”

The MPO is looking to pursue $160,000 for the traffic signal/intersection improvement study, which would require $40,000 from Gainesville. Funding would be Federal Highway Administration dollars that trickle through the Georgia Department of Transportation to MPOs statewide.

Arcadis, an Atlanta-based consulting firm that works for DOT, plans to compile traffic data on the road and consider potential improvements. The study should be completed this summer, officials have said.

Also, the city is working to expand a traffic monitoring system that allows employees “to observe, by live video, each intersection along this corridor and make immediate (signal) timing changes” as needed, Rotalsky has said.

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