Newly installed signs along Interstate 985 announcing the Lanier Islands Parkway exit have been raising questions about the status of Ga. 347’s official name.
At one time, the roadway was Holiday Road, Friendship Road and Thompson Mill Road between the Lake Lanier Islands resort and Ga. 211/Old Winder Highway in Braselton.
A portion from I-985 to Spout Springs Road was not supposed to get the new Lanier Islands Parkway name until January 2015.
“We made the change on the sign on the interstate prematurely,” DOT spokesman Mark McKinnon said in a written statement. “...We simply removed ‘Friendship Road’ from the sign too early and we will be replacing it sometime next week. It will remain on the sign until the new name takes effect. It was our mistake and we are correcting it.”
On Jan. 31, 2010, the Hall County Board of Commissioners made its first name revision to a stretch of the road between the resort and I-985.
Because the first revisions were on local roads, DOT District 1 spokeswoman Teri Pope said the matter didn’t need clearance from the DOT. Officials in support of continuing the new name the full length of Friendship Road said it would provide greater road continuity and capitalize upon Lake Lanier’s visibility as a destination.
This spring, Rep. Carl Rogers, R-Gainesville, introduced a bill that would dedicate the remaining length of Ga. 347/Friendship Road with the new parkway name. The road is undergoing an extension and widening that is scheduled for completion in 2015. The proposal was later folded into SR 293, sponsored by Sen. Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega. The bill included several other road dedications. Gov. Nathan Deal signed the act on May 7.
The move gave the green light to dedicate this remaining stretch from I-985 to the road’s end near the new North Georgia Health System Braselton hospital expected to open in May 2015.
A road dedication is not equivalent to a renaming, and includes smaller “dedication” signage.
Pam Puckett, who lives along the highway under construction, opposes a name change. She is part of a contingent that gathered more than 1,000 resident signatures seeking to maintain the name of the road that has been part of the Friendship community since the 1800s.
Puckett said she wants to know why she’s now seeing the large exit signs if this were only a road dedication, not a renaming. And, why are there new signs before a promised implementation window of January 2015, or the road project‘s completion?
Brian Robinson, the governor’s spokesman, said after the bill signing that Deal had reservations about a name change.
“The governor thinks the name change should apply for I-985 west to the lake, but not the east of the highway.”
Puckett said that in conversations with legislators, she has been told the wait until January would allow them to reconsider the issue when they return from recess.
Gooch said he has had conversations with residents along the route since Rogers introduced the legislation.
“The governor was very concerned about the renaming of this road and agreed to sign the resolution with the understanding that only the portion of the road west of I-985 would be changed to Lanier Islands Parkway. We do not believe the portion of Friendship Road east of the interstate will be affected.”
Gooch said because the name change was folded in with others in one bill, vetoing the resolution would have killed about a dozen other road renamings across the state.
Gooch said he is not aware if any further action will be needed next January to clarify any misunderstanding that may exist with Rogers’ resolution pertaining to Friendship Road.