Officials released a draft list of recommended Hall County bicycle/pedestrian improvements Monday, with costs totaling an estimated $143.4 million.
In what is basically a wish list, the suggested projects stretch way into the future — as far as 2040, but possibly longer, as some of the work is labeled as “aspirations.”
The recommendations were discussed by a Gainesville-Hall County Metropolitan Planning Organization committee that’s been charged with exploring bike and pedestrian options in Hall County. The MPO is Hall’s lead transportation planning agency.
Moving forward, officials will be weighing the improvements against other transportation work — notably, road projects — as part of a 2040 Metropolitan Planning Plan update, which is slated for completion by August 2015.
Projects have been categorized by short-term, midterm and long-term time frames, or blocks of years between now and 2040. Included in the short term, or until 2020-25, were trails in the Cherokee Bluffs Park in South Hall and what is called the Palmour Drive Connector, a path between Industrial Boulevard and Palmour Drive.
Another short-term project calls for a study to determine whether a trail traveling through Don Carter State Park, which opened last year, is feasible.
Potential funding was also discussed, stirring a lot of discussion at the committee meeting.
“Ideally, we’d like to have a certain percentage of SPLOST funding set aside for this,” said Graham Malone, transportation engineer with Norcross-based Pond & Co., which is working with the MPO on the planning effort.
He was referring to the county’s special purpose local option sales tax, a 1 percent tax on all purchases that goes to pay for public projects. The current six-year SPLOST expires next year.
“You’re going to be hard-pressed to get anything under SPLOST, from what I’m hearing,” Gillsville Mayor Larry Poole said. “And if you’re looking for unified funding, you’re going to be hard-pressed to sell this concept since there’s nothing in North or East Hall.”
Pond officials said they were trying to balance “priority projects in all areas of the county.”
Srikanth Yamala, MPO director, said he believes it’s “highly unlikely we will have the trails as part of the SPLOST.”
“We’re more likely to have transportation” in the sales tax program, but road projects could have “some element” of trails, Oakwood City Manager Stan Brown said.
The group also discussed possible names for what has long been called the Central Hall Multiuse Trail, which winds through the Chicopee Village area. A few names suggested for an overall trail system included Hall Greenway, Healthy Hall Greenway and Highlands to Islands Trail.
Two phases of that project have been scheduled for an April letting by Hall County officials.
The trail’s first phase would run parallel to Ga. 13/Atlanta Highway from Palmour Drive to the Georgia Department of Labor office at 2756 Atlanta Highway.
The second phase calls for running the trail behind Lanier Technical College and the University of North Georgia’s Gainesville campus in Oakwood. A third project calls for construction of a pedestrian tunnel under Atlanta Highway.