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Hall shifting road projects as part of regional tax plan
Officials switch Browns Bridge, Martin Road projects for Ga. 211 widening
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CLARKESVILLE — Hall County swapped out projects Wednesday night at a meeting to discuss the regional list for next year's transportation sales tax vote.

Officials dropped improvements to Martin Road from Atlanta Highway to Ga. 53/Winder Highway and widening Ga. 369/Browns Bridge Road from Forsyth County to Ga. 53/McEver Road.

But they added widening Ga. 211/Old Winder Highway from Ga. 53/Winder Highway to Gwinnett County.

"Ga. 211 would connect two new four-lane (roads) and the new hospital, (and) that will be a model for transportation planning," said Tom Oliver, chairman of the Hall County Board of Commissioners. "Browns Bridge should have been a model years ago."

He was referring, in part, to plans for a newly widened Ga. 347 between McEver Road and Ga. 211 and Northeast Georgia Medical Center's South Hall campus.

Oliver is one of 26 members on the Georgia Mountains' regional transportation roundtable, which has until Oct. 15 to produce a final project list that voters will consider in a 2012 vote.

Voters will decide by region whether to impose a new 1 percent sales tax for transportation and transit improvements.

Lawmakers were discussing in special session this week whether to move the vote from July to November.

Late Wednesday, Gov. Nathan Deal put off talks until the next legislative session.

The Georgia Mountains region is estimated to receive $1.26 billion from the tax over 10 years, with 75 percent of that, or nearly $945 million, going for regional projects.

The remaining 25 percent, or some $315 million, would go to city and county governments to use as they see fit, including for transit and maintenance.

The roundtable, made up of top county and city leaders from a 13-county region, met Wednesday at the Ruby Albright Recreation and Aquatic Center in Clarkesville to review projects that had been recommended by a smaller executive committee.

Srikanth Yamala, transportation planning manager for the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization, said the rationale for the Hall County changes included that Forsyth County had abandoned putting on the project list widening its side of Ga. 369 leading to Hall.

Conversely, Barrow County has proposed widening its side of Ga. 211.

The moves left Hall County with a spare $9.6 million to beef up its wish list.

"You need an action plan," said Todd Long, the Georgia Department of Transportation planning director.

"We'll figure it out," said Gainesville Mayor Ruth Bruner.

Long went on to challenge the project swap a bit.

"As you go back and huddle again, I'm going to ask you to reconsider Browns Bridge Road," he said. "I do think that's a very significant project."

The roundtable, which is headed by Union County Commissioner Lamar Paris, is set to meet next at 5 p.m. Oct. 5 at the Ruby Albright center.

The public will have a chance to voice its opinions on projects.

Hearings are set for 5:30-7 p.m. Sept. 13 at the Spout Springs Library in Flowery Branch; 5-7 p.m. Sept. 20, Stephens County Courthouse, Toccoa; 5-7 p.m. Sept. 22, Forsyth County Administration Building, Cumming; and 5-7 p.m. Sept. 22, White County Library, Cleveland.


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