A slate of transportation projects has been recommended for downtown Dahlonega through 2035 to help ease traffic woes, fueled by a growing college and the city's own huge tourist draw.
The Georgia Department of Transportation completed a transportation study of the area, particularly anchored around Ga. 52/Morrison Moore Parkway.
A key finding in the study is that there were some 86,000 daily trips throughout the area in 2010. By 2035, this number is expected to increase to 150,000 trips, an increase of 73 percent.
"This anticipated trip growth is consistent with the population and employment projected for the city of Dahlonega and the greater Lumpkin County area," according to the report, which was set to be posted on a DOT website last week.
The most immediate and profound relief could come in the form of an $18.5 million proposal to improve Morrison Moore from west of West Barlow Road to north of Ga. 52 at U.S. 19/Ga. 60.
That road project is part of a package of regional transportation projects voters will consider in a sales tax vote on July 31.
Voters statewide are considering the tax, which will be approved or rejected in each of 12 districts across Georgia. Lumpkin County is part of the 13-county Georgia Mountains district, which also includes Hall.
Lumpkin has one other project on the list — widening of Ga. 60 from Ga. 400 to the Hall County line.
The Morrison Moore work would involve "taking a two-lane road that is pretty congested and backed up during rush-hour traffic and make it a four lane with a center turn lane, so you will essentially have five lanes coming around town," said Sen. Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega.
When he served as the area's representative on the DOT board, he was instrumental in getting the traffic study off the ground.
"That was the first part of any kind of expansion project," Gooch said. "We knew if we were going to do any work on Morrison Moore Parkway, we had to have some engineering work done."
The project would affect a stretch of road that is about three-quarters of a mile in length, but "it's the most traveled portion of our county," Gooch said.
He also noted the growth of North Georgia College & State University and the downtown area, which is especially popular in the fall.
"We can't keep putting more and more traffic in those areas without making some improvements," Gooch said.
Mayor Gary McCullough said Lumpkin County has supported Dahlonega in the effort to pursue improvements to Morrison Moore.
"It's a top priority," he said.
McCullough noted that while 75 percent of revenues from the sales tax would fund regional projects such as Morrison Moore, 25 percent would go to city and county governments based on center-line road miles.
And that would also help Dahlonega with other downtown projects.
The report, for example, recommends a road running parallel to Morrison Moore connecting Legion Road to South Chestatee Street and widening South Chestatee from Morrison Moore to Hospital Drive.
"Right now, we don't have any money to do any of those (other) projects," McCullough said. "We haven't had our (City Council) retreat this year to come up with a long-range strategy on that."
Morrison Moore improvements, he added, "will satisfy our needs for the immediate future, I think. The others will put on the back burner for now."
Jeff Davis, associate vice president of facilities at North Georgia, said he appreciates any transportation projects done in the area.
The college and the city "are cheek to jowl," he said.
"It's hard to benefit Dahlonega without benefiting the college, or vice versa."
The Morrison Moore improvements "will certainly benefit our students, faculty and staff because we all live, work and do business in Dahlonega," Davis said.