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Funding stalls plan for major road expansions in Gainesville
Because of a lack of funding, the Georgia Department of Transportation has stopped plans on a major project to widen Atlanta Highway between Thurmon Tanner Parkway and Memorial Park Drive. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

A major road project that would create a series of connectors in and around west Gainesville has hit a speed bump, mainly because of a lack of funding and the emergence of a more pressing issue in South Hall.

The Georgia Department of Transportation has decided to put off widening Atlanta Highway to four lanes from two between Thurmon Tanner Parkway at the new Exit 17 off Interstate 985 to Memorial Park Drive.

Also on hold is the four-lane widening of Memorial Park Drive to Ga. 369/Browns Bridge Road.

The construction efforts are “no longer active because neither (Hall County nor) the DOT has funding, (so) the work has stopped,” said Teri Pope, spokeswoman for the DOT’s Gainesville-based District 1.

“Our records show no funding or years for right of way acquisition or for construction,” she added.

The project was estimated to cost $15.5 million for rights of way and nearly $28 million for construction.

Hall County was to pay for preliminary engineering, 10 percent of right of way cost and 10 percent of construction, as the project involved a local road, Memorial Park Drive, Pope said.

Also, Hall has asked the DOT to remove another phase of work — extending Memorial Park Drive from Browns Bridge Road to McEver and Skelton Road reconstruction — from its project list so that the two entities can focus on widening the ever-congested Spout Springs Road in South Hall.

“Where (the DOT) is right now, to get another project programmed, you have to take something off the table,” said Jody Woodall, Hall County road projects manager. “To get Spout Springs, we took (the other work) off the table.”

“There is more of a need with Spout Springs, and I think the funding assistance we would get from DOT would outweigh what we would get on (the other projects).”

The Skelton part of the project involves widening the curvy, two-lane road to four lanes from Shallowford Road to the new Memorial Park extension.

Skelton, which now connects with Browns Bridge Road about a half-mile east of Memorial Park, serves as a residential area cut-through for Shallowford Road motorists wanting to reach Browns Bridge and Memorial Park.

The Skelton connector not only would ease traffic in a part of town that features major shopping areas, but it also would provide another route for traffic flowing west of Gainesville.

Shallowford Road connects with Ga. 53/Dawsonville Highway, where a four-lane project was completed in 2008.

The county hasn’t dropped the Memorial Park work north of Browns Bridge Road, however.

“We’re planning to finish the design with local funding ... and then try to get some of it on the ground,” Woodall said. “Probably, the part we’ll focus on first will be the Memorial Park extension. Most of the property is vacant, so there won’t be as many impacts.

“We feel like we can do that one fairly easily.”

No schedule has been set for the project, which would be paid for by the county’s special purpose local option sales taxes.

As for Spout Springs, some short-term fixes are still planned for the heavily traveled road, including a traffic light at Elizabeth Lane and turn lanes in front of Flowery Branch High and Spout Spring Elementary schools.

Ultimately, county officials would like to widen the two-lane road to four lanes between Hog Mountain Road and the county line in Braselton — a stretch that includes several large subdivisions, including the 1,000-acre Sterling on the Lake community.

“We’re working with DOT on the project framework agreement right now,” Woodall said. “Once we get that approved, we’re looking at probably this summer getting a consultant on board to begin the design work.”

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