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Green Street study reveals difficulty of widening, redesigning road
A study conducted by Southeastern Engineering Inc. of Marietta was made to discover what's under Green Street in Gainesville.

More than 33,000 automobiles travel up and down historic Green Street in Gainesville each day, and heavy trucks account for 16 percent of all traffic, about double the statewide average on similar roads.

Those numbers provide enough information to understand why city officials, planners and public works crews have long wanted to widen and expand the artery running just a sixth of a mile from Academy Street and E.E. Butler Parkway to Ridgewood Avenue and Riverside Drive.

“City staff complains a lot about Green Street to the (Department of Transportation),” Public Works Director David Dockery said.

The road bottlenecks during rush-hour traffic and is prone to flooding during heavy rains.

Now, city officials are armed with details about what a project of this magnitude will entail and the potential complications along the way, including what lies above, below and beyond the road.  

“We want it done right from the start,” Councilman George Wangemann said.

Green Street has long been a major connector north to Dahlonega, through the heart of downtown Gainesville, and out to Interstate 985 and points south.

City officials and consultants said it is unknown how many times the road has been repaved or redesigned since its inception more than 100 years ago.

But they do know that changes to the route have followed the evolution of transit in America, from the old horse-and-buggy days to early cars to commercial traffic.

The base of the road has been compromised time and again from traffic and weather, officials said, and there are numerous levels of asphalt, including repaving additions this summer.

Southeastern Engineering Inc. of Marietta conducted a survey and environmental screening along Green Street in recent months. It also tested the condition of asphalt and tracked where utility lines run.

There are no medians and no gutters. Sidewalks and curbs have been eroded by vehicle tires and shoe soles. They’re not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act anyhow.

Just two crosswalks, located at each end of the historic stretch that passes by old trees and Southern mansions, are available for pedestrians.

Vegetation could get in the way of widening plans, just as property rights and easements will likely do so, and moving utility lines is also fraught with costs.

Perhaps the biggest remedy needed, however, is also the least surprising.

With cameras running underground and through pipes, it was discovered that sewer and other drainage infrastructure is substandard beneath Green Street.

For example, one pipe was found to be made of clay, a construction practice long outdated.

Councilman Sam Couvillon said in 50 years, of course, the next generation will be wondering “why in the world” we “were using concrete.”

Fixing or replacing the drainage system will be a monumental task in its own right.

Existing pipes could be filled with concrete, for instance, rather than the costlier and timelier endeavor of removing them entirely.

“Sounds like a good SPLOST project,” Wangemann said.

“Or stormwater utility,” Mayor Danny Dunagan countered.

But a proposed “rain tax” in Gainesville to fund stormwater infrastructure upgrades was shot down late last year, but may not be dead forever.

The city has about 170 miles of pipe, the vast majority of which is corrugated metal and reinforced concrete. There are 222 detention ponds, about 4,500 catch basins, about 5,000 head/end walls and about 1,700 junction boxes.

City officials have warned that aging pipes, such as what exists under Green Street, are responsible for costly road washouts, and new state and federal water quality regulations have prompted the need for a self-sustaining fee program.

The original fee proposal called for charging $1 for every 1,000 square feet of impervious surface on residential, commercial, nonprofit and government property.

There are more than 124 million square feet of impervious surfaces in Gainesville alone.

City officials said they expect to receive concept plans and guidelines for feasibility studies from the Georgia Department of Transportation in the coming months.

City officials will then begin reviewing the many possible ideas for redesigning the road.

Engineering consultants said full-depth reclamation should be considered in this process.

When it comes time for construction, city officials might hope some kind of bypass is in place.

They are already looking at the possibility of using existing streets to help steer traffic around Green Street.

This includes using state routes to connect Thompson Bridge Road to Limestone Parkway, Jesse Jewell Parkway and Interstate 985.

This project would call for widening and realigning Oak Tree Drive, which is between Thompson Bridge Road and Riverside Drive, as well as adding a roundabout and a traffic light.

But that might not solve the whole problem.

“I can’t imagine the traffic congestion when we decide to fix (Green Street),” Dunagan said.

Green Street Corridor Study
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