Hall County plans to explore options, including finding “funding partners,” to help build what is now an estimated $3.45 million bridge at the Tumbling Circle railroad crossing.
The Board of Commissioners was looking at closing the Norfolk Southern crossing, as well as 1,786 feet of right of way along Tumbling Circle.
The commission had put off the issue, asking staff to get estimates for a bridge at the site.
Ken Rearden, Hall’s public works and utilities director, told the commission Monday the cost initially was thought to run about $15 million. But Moreland Altobelli Associates, a Norcross-based engineering firm, estimates the cost to be $3.45 million.
“This is a good, conservative cost estimate,” Rearden said.
“That is good news,” South Hall Commissioner Craig Lutz said. “My thought is ... I’d rather that (crossing) be replaced than closed, so I’d rather us go out and find funding partners, wherever they may come from.”
He suggested approaching the state, Norfolk Southern and “wherever we can get assistance to get this thing done.”
Other commissioners agreed.
“That’s a major transportation artery,” North Hall Commissioner Scott Gibbs said.
Tumbling Circle juts off Tumbling Creek Road, which dead-ends at the railroad tracks on its northern end and Ga. 13/Atlanta Highway on its southern end, running by Lanier Charter Career Academy. Exit 17 off Interstate 985 is a short distance from Tumbling Creek at Ga. 13.
North of the railroad tracks are Old Oakwood Road and another road that cuts through the Mundy Mill subdivision in Gainesville to Mundy Mill Road, a main thoroughfare through Oakwood.
“This (bridge) would tie back in and give interstate access,” Gibbs said. “The flow of traffic would work so much better if we can get a bridge.”
Rearden said after the meeting that he mentioned to Jessica Robinson, the county’s program and grants manager, that she could look at grants as possible funding sources.
Safety concerns were at the heart of the discussion to close the crossing.
Jason Field, a railway and highway engineer with Moffatt & Nichol, a consulting firm working with the Georgia Department of Transportation, has said the crossing has been the site of several accidents, including fatalities, since 1997.
During the summer, a Gainesville man escaped with minor injuries after hitting an Amtrak train carrying 197 passengers.
Field requested the commission close the crossing and abandon the right of way, and the DOT recommended the closing as part of its crossing safety program.
In another transportation-related matter, the commission is looking to proceed with applying to the DOT for traffic signals at Ramsey Road off Ga. 365 in North Hall and Ga. 347/Lanier Islands Parkway at Braselton Hospital Driveway in South Hall.
Officials have said they believe the Ramsey Road light would help improve overall safety along the busy Ga. 365, especially with heavy tractor-trailer traffic from neighboring industries. Also, Ramsey Road lies just north of Howard Road, where several fatal wrecks have occurred.