Gainesville is looking to move forward with major improvements at Queen City and Jesse Jewell parkways, a project the city has wanted to pursue for years.
Plans call for adding right-turn lanes on Ga. 60/Queen City Parkway and in both directions of Ga. 369/Jesse Jewell heading into the busy crossing.
Public Works Director David Dockery has discussed plans, including funding, with Gainesville City Council, with officials deciding to submit the work as a capital improvement project through the city’s budgeting process in the spring.
“We also wanted to get a firm commitment from the state on funding availability,” Dockery said.
The city is considering spending $259,200 to qualify for federal and state money for the work. The Georgia Department of Transportation has told the city it may qualify for nearly $1.6 million under the Federal Highway Administration’s Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program.
“The exact schedule and funding years for each phase of the project have yet to be determined,” said Toby Carr, the DOT’s planning director, in an Aug. 28 letter to Srikanth Yamala, director of the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization.
The MPO serves as the area’s transportation planning group.
However, Carr said, the DOT would work with the MPO to include the project in its 2015-18 transportation plan.
“This particular project has been in discussion for a long time and is a wonderful example of continued partnership at the local and state level in making it a reality,” Yamala told The Times.
The project was included in Hall County’s project list for the transportation sales tax referendum that was shot down by voters in July 2012.
This spring, at Gainesville Mayor Danny Dunagan’s urging, the MPO asked the DOT to explore acquiring right of way at the intersection, with an eye particularly on property containing a century-old house on one corner.
Earlier this year, signs advertised nearly three-quarters of an acre as part of a two-lot package for sale.
“The DOT needs to go ahead and acquire that property before it is developed,” he said in May. “It will sure be a lot cheaper to get it now than when something is sitting there.”
The family that owns the property later issued a statement concerning the matter.
“Right of way was previously obtained from this property to construct the intersection at its current size. Each time right of way is removed, the overall lot size is decreased and the marketability of the remaining property is also diminished.”
Brent Hoffman of Berkshire Hathaway, which had listed the property, said in an email that while the property isn’t officially listed, the owner “would like to sell but (feels) hamstrung by the city.”
DOT officials have said there needs to be active project at the intersection before they can begin buying right of way.
Dunagan, meanwhile, is still a big supporter of the project.
“You put three turn lanes there and it’s going to have a huge impact on traffic, especially coming from Queen City onto Jesse Jewell,” he said.
As for the family, it said in an emailed statement it “remain(s) open to the prospect of working with the city of Gainesville and Georgia DOT.”
“We are optimistic that prudent next steps will be taken to purchase the full area at one time, to allow for the current expansion plans and any future expansion of the intersection.”