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Martin Road traffic study heading for approval
Commission signals support for $30,000 study of busy road
The Hall County Board of Commissioners signaled early support during its Monday work session for a $30,000 traffic study of Martin Road, which would make way for any possible options for slowing down traffic on the road.

Martin Road is on track to get a traffic study that will start the process of slowing traffic on the residential road in South Hall.

The Hall County Board of Commissioners signaled early support during its Monday work session for a $30,000 study by Wilburn Engineering. The traffic study must be performed before the county can alter the flow of traffic with stop signs or speed tables on the road between Falcon Parkway/Ga. 13 and Winder Highway/Ga. 53.

If approved during the commission’s Thursday voting meeting, the study would begin in early September to give school traffic time to smooth out, Public Works and Public Utilities Director Ken Rearden told the commission on Monday, and it would last 10 weeks.

The engineering firm will analyze the area’s speed limit, evaluate traffic safety using crash data and sight distance, investigate the intersections along the roadway and recommend potential “traffic calming” measures, according to a report from Hall County Public Works.

A road plan for the area that earned support from a committee of Martin Road residents calls for stop signs at the intersections of Martin Road and Quailwood Drive and Martin Road, Martin Trail and Martin Crossing.

It also calls for “no trucks allowed” signs to be posted on Atlanta Highway and Winder Highway where both connect with Martin Road. Large trucks with 10 or more wheels are already banned from driving through the area, though area homeowners say that ban is being ignored.

A long-term plan could involve a roundabout at the intersection of Martin Road and JM Turk Road on the west end of the road near Atlanta Highway. A roundabout would be much more expensive and time-consuming than stop signs and speed tables.

“The basic things that we want to do are not going to cost that much money, but we can’t do them unless we do this study,” said Commissioner Kathy Cooper during the meeting. “The majority expense would be that roundabout, and that would be something we would have to work toward at a later date.”

Residents of the Martin Road area have fought any expansion of the road.

In May, area property owners convinced the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization to scrap plans for a $46 million widening of Martin Road.

Commissioners are also on track to on Thursday consider removing Martin Road from the Gateway Corridors Boundary, which sets specific standards for businesses along the road.

With the county and planners backing away from development of Martin Road, area resident Gina Pilcher said the gateway corridors designation is unnecessary.

Pilcher told The Times on Monday that the neighborhood’s “biggest push” was to stop the widening of Martin Road.

Now “speed is probably the biggest issue,” she said, along with illegal truck traffic.

It’s a logical route for those in South Hall. Martin Road connects two highways and has no brakes on traffic that would make driving through the neighborhood inconvenient for motorists.

Deborah Simental lives on Martin Road itself, and she said she’s noticed “a whole lot of trucks” in the past few months.

Almost 20 school buses drive through the area each day during the school year, Simental told The Times, and some days truck traffic is just as bad — and there aren’t supposed to be any at all on the road.

“Cement trucks, dump trucks, long trailers, 18-wheel, I mean all kind of stuff,” she said. “It’s causing stress on the road. The shoulders are crumbling and some parts of the road are cracking … It seems to have gotten worse. We get it coming both ways.”

Both Simental and Pilcher noted that signs warning trucks away from the area are posted on Martin Road, which makes it too late for truck drivers to turn around on the two-lane road once they’re on their way.

Simental also noted speed is a problem along the 45 mph road, especially for drivers unfamiliar with the area who are caught short by the road’s curves.

“They don’t seem to know that some of these curves are coming up, and you can kind of hear them. I’m waiting for one of them to flip over,” Simental said. “They’re not slowing up.”

Pilcher is hoping for changes along the road before Exit 14 is completed on Interstate 985. The exit is expected to be completed in 2018 or later.

Should the traffic study find that a roundabout is needed at the intersection of Martin Road and JM Turk Road, the county would need to plan capital funds for what “could be a substantial cost,” said county Administrator Randy Knighton.

But stop signs are an inexpensive change along a roadway, Rearden said. Unlike stop signs, speed tables or bumps require community approval before they’re constructed, he noted.

“To me, if there’s an intersection in the county that’s got to have something done, it’s JM Turk and Martin,” Commissioner Scott Gibbs said.