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DOT offers some mixed news about roads
One of the projects discussed at the Georgia Department of Transportation Forum was the widening of Friendship Road, shown here looking toward Interstate 985. - photo by Tom Reed

Shelved projects

Georgia Department of Transportation improvement projects that haven’t been scheduled for construction because of a lack of funding

Winder Highway/Ga. 53 from Ga. 211 to Interstate 85

Old Winder Highway/Ga. 211 from Winder Highway to Ga. 347

Lanier Islands Parkway from McEver Road to Lake Lanier Islands

Browns Bridge Road from McEver Road to Ga. 306 in Forsyth County

Cleveland Highway/U.S. 129 from Limestone Parkway to the Cleveland Bypass

U.S. 129 from Ga. 323 to the Pendergrass Bypass

Source: Georgia DOT

OAKWOOD — A bleak revenue picture, made worse by expenses piling up from bad winter weather beating the roads, cast a pall over the Georgia Department of Transportation’s annual forum Thursday.

Work is moving along on some area projects, but orange barrels are becoming scarce, replaced by the engineering and land deals it takes to get projects to the asphalt stage.

Kit Dunlap, president of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, tried to perk up the crowd of community and civic leaders gathered for the event at Gainesville State College.

“We don’t want everyone leaving here blue,” she said. “We are in a part of the state ... that’s going to keep growing, so that’s the good part.”

Steve Gooch, the state transportation board’s 9th District member, started the meeting with some downcast remarks.

“We are in a meltdown revenue wise. We just don’t know where the bottom is. We keep seeing motor fuel taxes drop,” he said. “...

Hopefully, we’ll see the bottom and we can start to rebound (from) these tough times.”

Gooch, on the board since November, went on to say, “The biggest issue facing the DOT is funding. There’s very little money left there now with the overhead ... and with all the debt service.”

He talked about a bill going through the Georgia General Assembly that would allow local governments to generate roads money through a 1 cent sales tax.

“Those projects would be determined locally by the cities, counties and people of the regional commissions (that would be set up),” said Gooch, a Lumpkin County resident. “That’ll be a big help, if we can that passed.”

Georgia voters would need to approve a constitutional amendment to set up such a system.

“I encourage you to keep your eye on that bill and support it, if you can,” Gooch said. “And make sure your businesses and the people in your community support it.”

A 1 cent tax “is the best thing we’ve got going” for transportation improvements, he added.

“I don’t think the legislature is going to approve a tax increase on motor fuel. I don’t see them raising taxes anywhere else this year for transportation,” Gooch said.

“The unfortunate part of this is we won’t see (the tax) until 2012, the way the bill is written today,” he added.

Dunlap told the crowd “we all need to get educated” about the tax.

“And when it’s our turn in Hall County to vote up or down, we need to educate everybody and be prepared to take on some kind of long-term funding,” she said.

Except for a few remaining “punch-list” items, Hall County’s biggest road project ever is finished. For the most part, motorists are zipping along roads around the $75 million makeover of Interstate 985 at Mundy Mill Road and Atlanta Highway.

“I kind of miss those orange barrels. You know, when we had (them), something was happening, something was moving and there were jobs out there,” Dunlap said.

The state DOT’s most significant project this year is the completion of the final stretch of Thurmon Tanner Parkway, a $9.1 million road connecting Plainview and Mundy Mill roads and running through the heart of Oakwood.

DOT officials estimate the work will be completed in December. When done, the four-lane parkway will run Atlanta Highway in Oakwood to Phil Niekro Boulevard in Flowery Branch.

Thanks to federal stimulus money, crews are working on concrete slab replacement on Ga. 365 in North Hall.

The only other “major” project involves a partnership with private developers and Braselton in fixing up Spout Springs at Thompson Mill roads.

Otherwise, the DOT is working on pre-construction efforts to widen:

 Friendship Road from I-985 to Ga. 211/Old Winder Highway.

Lanier Islands Parkway, formerly Friendship Road, from I-985 to McEver Road.

Thompson Bridge Road from Ga. 136/Price Road to Yellow Creek Road.

Atlanta Highway from Sawnee Avenue in Buford to Lanier Islands Parkway.

Also, engineering is under way on building a new I-985 interchange connecting Martin Road in Flowery Branch to H.F. Industrial Parkway in Oakwood, crossing Thurmon Tanner Parkway.

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