For the longest time, getting back and forth between McEver Road and Ga. 13/Atlanta Highway in Flowery Branch meant doglegging through downtown streets — four right or left turns, to be exact.
Come this spring, maybe March or April, traveling between the two major traffic arteries could be vastly improved, as the city’s Light Ferry Road Extension is well under construction.
Work began this summer on the $2.1 million two-lane connector, which features a roundabout at Mitchell Street.
For now, though, the project means detours for downtown drivers, as Snelling Avenue, which runs between between Ga. 13 and Church Street, is closed.
The project, in essence, will connect Lights Ferry Road to Snelling to make for a straight shot between McEver and Ga. 13.
The new road also is significant because, as it crosses Ga. 13, it becomes Phil Niekro Boulevard, which leads to another major thoroughfare, Interstate 985. And Phil Niekro becomes the busy Spout Springs Road as it passes under I-985.
“The big thing about (the project), too, is that it opens up kind of a (downtown) gateway area,” City Manager Bill Andrew said.
Mitchell was considered an ideal spot for the roundabout as it’s the widest road in town and helps direct motorists to Main Street, where a sort of business renaissance is taking place, with eateries and other shops.
City leaders envision more development, including on Mitchell Street, where an apartment building that used to house the old Flowery Branch High School occupies almost an entire block.
And there are other plans for downtown growth, including more shops and a home for a new city hall, which would replace the small and cramped building at 5517 Main St.
“We also hope that Mitchell will eventually have walking paths to Hideaway Bay Marina (off Lake Lanier) and the (city) park,” Andrew said.
The roundabout, particularly, “is going to look super nice,” he said.
It will feature a landscaped center with granite pavers and the town’s backlit name in brushed-aluminum letters.
“With a roundabout, you create a desirable area — an area that could be iconic,” city planner John McHenry said.
Also, the project also could serve as “the beginning of a sidewalk network … where you could walk to Lake Lanier from downtown,” Andrew said.
The new road also will feature decorative light poles that will match ones already along Railroad Avenue and Main Street, placed there as part of earlier city efforts.
The connector is being funded through the city’s capital improvement fund, but a bulk of it — or nearly $1.6 million — comes from a loan and grant provided by the Georgia Transportation Infrastructure Bank, managed by the State Road and Tollway Authority.
The project already is having some local economic effects, Andrew said.
“We’ve had some houses selling in that area, with all this going on,” he said.
A new subdivision, Harbor Lights, is developing off Lights Ferry Road.
A couple of area residents said they’re looking forward to the new road.
Nancy Smith, who lives off Martin Street, said that people frequently use her road as a cut-through between Mitchell and Railroad.
Butch Dyer, who lives off Stephens Road outside of town, said he believes the improvements are “going to make it so much easier for everyday traffic. It’s got to.”
“And it’s just going to make the area nicer,” Dyer said.