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Growing Ga. 365 area has officials worried about traffic impacts
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Auto Metal Direct owner Mark Headrick began restoring old cars and scrounging for their parts back in the 1970s. Today his hobby has grown into a large business that supplies classic car body parts and is moving his warehouse 20 miles north to be near the new inland port coming to northern Hall County. - photo by Scott Rogers

More space is much needed for Mark Headrick’s classic car parts business, but a new and larger building sitting next to a regional cargo terminal for the Georgia Ports Authority will be like a godsend for the South Hall businessman.

“Most of our big parts come from Taiwan, so they’re all on containers,” the Auto Metal Direct president said during a visit last week to his current plant off Sherwin Parkway, near Atlanta Highway, in Buford. “I’ve got to pay to truck that stuff up here from (the Port of) Savannah, and they’re never on time.”

Construction has started on the company’s new 318,000-square-foot plant in Gateway Industrial Centre off Ga. 365 in northeast Hall. It will be near the Northeast Georgia Inland Port, projected to open in 2021.

It’s that kind of development, projected along Ga. 365 and the northern tip of Interstate 985 and stretching from the already bustling New Holland community off Jesse Jewell Parkway to the inland port site, that has officials buzzing about a potential future economic boom.

But there’s also concern about traffic impacts, especially when 150,000 containers per year start pouring into the 104-acre port off White Sulphur Road.

Also in the works off Ga. 365 is Gateway Village, a 522-acre site that could produce up to 2.6 million square feet in industrial and commercial space. And then there’s the newly opened Lanier Technical College off Howard Road and Lanier Tech Drive.

The campus and the projected developments “anticipated for this area merit a thorough review of the existing transportation connectivity and future needs,” said Chris Rotalsky, Gainesville’s public works director.

Gainesville is pushing for a traffic study that “will provide the city a planning document to further develop the transportation solutions for this area.”

The study will come up as a topic Tuesday, Feb. 12, before the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Policy Committee, a decision-making group made up of top elected officials in the area.

Specifically, the committee will consider pursuing federal planning money to help with the study.

Getting the money would require a 20-percent match, and the city “has the funds necessary,” Rotalsky said in a Feb. 5 memo to Policy Committee members.

“The traffic generated from new and future developments in the area will affect the traffic flow on (Ga.) 365, Jesse Jewell Parkway and the connecting state and local streets,” he wrote.

A study “would explore existing roadway networks, model current and future traffic demands, recommend potential improvements along with estimated construction costs and provide detail on new facilities needed to handle the economic activity this corridor is experiencing,” Rotalsky said.

The Georgia Department of Transportation already is considering traffic impacts, planning an interchange at Howard Road at Lanier Tech.

“There are several factors that made this project a priority, including safety, operations, the recent growth in traffic and the growth in development in that area,” DOT district spokeswoman Katie Strickland said.

A concept hasn’t been developed, and a budget for the project is being worked on, she said.

However, the DOT expects construction could take place in 2022-23.

Headrick, whose passion for muscle cars turned profitable in the late 1970s, also expects huge growth in the area, which for many years was mostly woods and open, largely vacant land.

But he said he’ll be happy to have more space — and his showroom back — when the new plant opens later this year. He had to close the showroom in his current building so he can have more room for the boxes that now reach the ceiling of his warehouse.

“It’s just a hobby gone mad,” Headrick said.

Policy Committee

What: Road planners’ group considering traffic study for burgeoning area of Ga. 365

When: 10 a.m., Tuesday, Feb. 12

Where: Gainesville Public Safety Complex, 701 Queen City Parkway

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