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Eyes on the Road: Pedestrian tunnel stirs concerns
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Pedestrian walkways, above and below ground, are suddenly the rage in Hall County.

Gainesville is working to complete a bridge crossing Jesse Jewell Parkway, connecting Gainesville's downtown to midtown.

Hall County is planning to build a tunnel under Atlanta Highway near the Georgia Department of Labor office as part of a multiuse trail winding through Chicopee Village and ending near Gainesville State College.

And now, the Clarks Bridge replacement project at Lake Lanier has stirred community interest, particularly with a planned 63-foot tunnel — actually a premanufactured box culvert — under Clarks Bridge Road.

The tunnel would connect Clarks Bridge Park and Lake Lanier Rowing Club/Lanier Canoe and Kayak Club's boathouse to the Olympic venue and boat ramps.

Some readers have questioned whether the tunnel is needed and whether it might turn into a haven for illegal activity, as well as whether a bridge would have been a better option.

Melvin Cooper, director of Gainesville Parks & Recreation, said the tunnel "would possibly be closed or gated except for" events at the venue, which is co-owned by Gainesville and Hall County.

Sgt. Stephen Wilbanks, Hall County Sheriff's Office spokesman, said that deputies would "make it a practice to regularly check the parks in their assigned districts."

"With Clarks Bridge Park being immediately adjacent to this proposed project, this would simply be another area to monitor," he said.

Brenda Miller, office administrator for the Lanier Canoe & Kayak Club, said deputies routinely patrol the park.

"I'm sure if there are issues or problems that they will be able to address them," she said.

Otherwise, "we are looking forward to the pedestrian tunnel and (are) sure that it will have a positive impact on the venue. (It) will provide improved safety for the athletes and spectators, and improve the traffic flow on Clarks Bridge Road during events."

Teri Pope, spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Transportation's Gainesville office, said the tunnel is estimated to cost $200,000, compared to $800,000 for a bridge.

"Also, a kayak won't fit into an elevator," she said.

Pedestrian bridges must meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards, meaning that either an elevator to get to a flat grade of the bridge or a very long grade to reach the height of an overhead bridge deck is needed.


Area engineer named for North Georgia counties

The DOT has named Michael Seabolt as area engineer serving Lumpkin, Towns, Union and White counties.

A DOT employee since 1988, Seabolt began his career at DOT as a temporary maintenance employee and returned later that year to become a permanent maintenance employee.

Seabolt transferred into construction in 1989 and worked his way up to construction project manager. He also served a year as a traffic operations engineer.

As area engineer, Seabolt will be responsible for maintenance and construction on every state route in his four-county area. He will manage more than 30 employees.

"Michael will do a great job," said District Construction Engineer Johnny Emmett. "He has a strong work ethic and is good with people. He will work daily to keep Georgia moving."


New DOT commissioner may be named March 1

A State Transportation Board search committee has recommended Interim Commissioner Keith Golden as the sole candidate for commissioner.

State law requires a 14-day waiting period before the selection can be finalized. Final action must be taken by the full transportation board and that action is expected at a special called meeting set for March 1.

He would replace Vance C. Smith Jr., who resigned in September.

Jeff Gill covers transportation issues for The Times. Share your thoughts, news tips and questions with him: