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Hall County's transportation plan gets final OK
Projects include road widening and transit, intersection and bicycle improvements
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A Hall County planning group gave its final OK Tuesday to the area's 2040 Metropolitan Transportation Plan.

The document, which cites some $2.1 billion in transportation projects, with funding coming from federal, state and local sources, will remain the county's long-range plan for the next four years.

The plan must be updated every four years to comply with federal air quality standards.

It features mostly road widening projects, but work also focuses on transit, intersection, bicycle, pedestrian and bridge improvements.

The plan "is more than just solving congestion. It's about mobility," said Jeff Carroll, South Carolina-based consultant for the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization.

The document covers key road projects in three time periods: 2012-2017, 2018-2030 and 2031-2040.

The 2012-2017 time frame features projects that are largely on track to taking place, such as Ga. 347 widenings in South Hall, as part of what is called the MPO's Transportation Improvement Program, or TIP.

The MPO's policy committee also approved the short-term document.

One funding source the plan doesn't consider is a regional 1 percent sales tax for transportation.

Regions throughout the state are developing project lists for the tax, which is set to go before voters in the summer of 2012. Each region has a committee, formed from a larger transportation roundtable, that is providing the initial list.

Hall County is in the 13-county Georgia Mountains region.

Srikanth Yamala, transportation planning manager for the MPO, told the policy committee that the Georgia Mountains' executive committee completed its work last week after several lengthy meetings.

The Georgia Mountains region is expected to net an estimated $1.26 billion over 10 years from the tax, with Hall County receiving about $300 million of that share.

The roundtable, set to meet Aug. 24 in Clarkesville, can move around projects on the executive committee's recommended list as it sees fit, but must have a completed list by Oct. 15.

Also, four public hearings will take place throughout the region before that deadline, including one set for 5:30 p.m. Sept. 13 in Gainesville. The other hearings hadn't been scheduled as of Tuesday.

Many of the Hall County projects on the Georgia Mountains list are also in the 2040 plan, including a new Interstate 985 interchange between Flowery Branch and Oakwood and construction of the Sardis Road Connector, a four-lane road between Ga. 53/Dawsonville Highway and Ga. 60/Thompson Bridge Road.

Officials have said they believe the new tax, if approved by voters, should help get major projects financed and completed sooner.