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Gainesville puts traffic fixes near top of budget priority list
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Traffic backs up on Dawsonville Highway after the end of the workday on Monday, March 12. A survey is being conducted as part of a study to find a solution to the traffic issues at the highway’s intersection with McEver Road.

The old real estate adage “location, location, location,” when considering road congestion in Gainesville, turns to “traffic, traffic, traffic,” Councilman Zack Thompson said.

Making improvements to local roads and alleviating traffic congestion are top priorities during this year’s budget process for the city.

“We’re really trying to figure out what we can do budget-wise to improve some of these corridors we’re having trouble with,” Councilman George Wangemann said. “I think every year that passes it becomes more of an important issue.”  

Mayor Danny Dunagan said projects like realigning Oak Tree Drive, improving traffic flow along Dawsonville Highway entering the city limits and continuing to explore options for Green Street are at the top of his priority list.

But whether it’s funding for public safety, public works or capital projects to improve traffic flow, city officials are constrained by several factors.

First, keeping up with private development is an ongoing challenge.   

The city has issued a record number of permits for commercial and residential construction in the past three years, and this growth keeps city officials constantly adjusting to its impacts on local traffic.

Wangemann said the city is always playing catch up because of the quickness with which development is emerging, be it along Dawsonville Highway or Jesse Jewell Parkway.

“It’s a big concern, especially as it relates to emergency vehicles getting through,” he added.

Officials have implemented “smart signaling,” which allows for the remote operation of traffic lights, along busy corridors during rush hour and holiday shopping seasons. They hope to expand this capability in the coming year to more intersections.

City officials must also contend with who exactly owns the road that needs fixing. Some roads that are critical thoroughfares into or out of Gainesville are county-owned or state-owned.

Green Street is a prime example.

Though city officials said they are continuing to explore options to improve safety and traffic flow on the stretch through downtown — such as roundabouts at the convergence of E.E. Butler Parkway and West Academy Street and on the other end near the Civic Center — the state Department of Transportation will ultimately have some say since Green Street is a state route.

“We’ve got to take the next step,” nevertheless, Councilman Sam Couvillon said.

Couvillon has also said reducing congestion along Dawsonville Highway and McEver Road is a major concern for him.

Discussions continue about developing potential connections between the two busy corridors.

Last month, Gainesville and the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization, the Hall County area’s lead transportation planning agency, released a survey to gauge why and when motorists travel to the area and their experiences with traffic congestion.

City Manager Bryan Lackey said he will make a budget presentation to the City Council, which will include potential funding for traffic remediation, on May 10 with a first public hearing and vote set for May 31.

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