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Grant helps to fund midtown trail
More than $200 million in requests were submitted to the DOT
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Hall County has received $645,000 in state transportation grants intended to "enhance communities and improve quality of life."

The Georgia Department of Transportation announced Thursday that $400,000 has been approved for phase two of the Gainesville Midtown Greenway and $245,000 for a Lula beautification and "park connectivity" project.

Gainesville had sought $800,000 to go toward the greenway's $1 million budget, with the city expecting to pick up the remaining $200,000 tab.

Jessica Tullar, Gainesville's special projects manager, couldn't be reached for comment Thursday.

"We've received funds from this grant in the past, and if history repeats itself, it's unlikely we'll receive full funding," she told City Council in December. "It's likely to be 25-40 percent of what we're asking, but every little bit will help the greenway to get closer to the final product."

The greenway is a multiuse, one-mile trail that extends through midtown to Industrial Boulevard, featuring a proposed outdoor venue, benches and playground.

Lula will use its money as part of an effort to dress up Main Street from Veterans Park toward Lula Elementary School and the U.S. post office. The work involves new curbing, gutters, lighting, landscaping and sidewalks.

"We're real excited about it," City Manager Dennis Bergin said. "It gives us a sense of place for the old downtown area and helps us in our renovation of the historic area."

Oakwood was turned down for a grant to complete a downtown improvement project that would have featured new sidewalks, ornamental lighting, benches, brick crosswalks and landscaping.

The city already has $100,000 in hand from a previous Transportation Enhancement grant. City officials wanted to combine that with another grant and have $300,000 to $500,000 to finish the project.

Officials said they aren't surprised by the denial.

"We knew it would be very competitive," City Manager Stan Brown said.

The city will just have to "regroup and come up with another strategy," he said.

More than $200 million in requests were submitted to the DOT for some $55 million in grant money. The State Transportation Board selected about 145 projects.

The state's Transportation Enhancement program "is an important tool for us to help local communities do needed projects to improve the quality of life for their citizens," DOT Commissioner Vance C. Smith Jr. said.

The DOT, which awarded another $1.5 million in grants for projects in Dawson, Forsyth, Lumpkin and White counties, administers the federally funded reimbursement program.

The Federal Highway Administration established it as a way to enrich the traveling experience of motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians by helping a community's transportation system with aesthetic and functional improvements to historical, natural and scenic areas.

The federal government provides 80 percent of a project's funding with local governments providing the remaining 20 percent.

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