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Federal money may be sought for Dawsonville Highway traffic study
Road planners may seek federal transportation funding to perform a traffic signal/intersection improvement study for Dawsonville Highway at Mcver Road, a commercially booming area of Gainesville.

Road meeting

What: Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization committee discussing funding for traffic signal/improvement study for Dawsonville Highway at McEver Road

When: 10:30 a.m. Wednesday

Where: Hall County Government Center, 2875 Browns Bridge Road, Gainesville

Road planners may seek federal transportation money to perform a traffic signal/intersection improvement study for Dawsonville Highway at McEver Road, a commercially booming area of Gainesville.

The Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization, the Hall County area’s lead transportation planning agency, is looking to pursue $160,000 for the effort, which would require $40,000 from Gainesville.

“The city of Gainesville is exploring options to alleviate traffic congestion at the intersection,” states a brief memo from the city to the MPO.

“We hope to see if we can make traffic flow a little better there,” Mayor Danny Dunagan said Wednesday. “We’ve got some other improvements that staff and the (Georgia Department of Transportation) are working on.

“And we’re trying to do some quick fixes to help some of the situations.”

The request for the funding — Federal Highway Administration dollars that trickle through DOT to MPOs statewide — ultimately would have to be approved by the Gainesville-Hall MPO’s Policy Committee, a group of top elected officials making up the agency’s decision-making arm.

The issue will first be discussed by an MPO committee comprising area road planners, engineers and officials at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday.

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.

“We are currently experiencing gridlock at rush hour, both in the morning and the afternoon, and we haven’t even gotten to the summer recreation season yet,” area resident Clyde Morris said at an MPO meeting earlier this year.

Another resident, Pat Horgan, told Gainesville City Council, “These (traffic) jams are frustrating, but they’re also costly, wasteful and they’re potentially very dangerous.”

Ethan Underwood, a lawyer representing Atlanta-based Oak Hall Companies, which is proposing the development, said officials are very aware of the traffic situation.

“We feel that this development, with an age-restricted residents requirement, is actually going to have less impact on the traffic than what is currently zoned and requires no additional approval,” he said.

Also, he added, “there are going to be multiple exits and entrances that would serve this development.”

Several traffic improvements — short- and long-term — are planned for Dawsonville Highway.

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, Public Works Director Chris Rotalsky has said.