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Martin Road widening shares public hearing spotlight with I-985 interchange
DOT public hearing displays maps for residents to review planned road projects
Joy Ellis, Amy Bright and Brian Bright looks at maps where their house is located during a public hearing Tuesday at Martin Technology Academy of Math and Science on the planned Exit 14 interchange on Interstate 985. The planned right of way is drawn into the Brights' yard. - photo by Erin O. Smith

The public hearing was focused mainly on a new Interstate 985 interchange, but just as many — if not more — fingers were pointing to maps of a related project that’s a couple of decades away, maybe longer.

The Georgia Department of Transportation held a meeting Tuesday night about the planned Exit 14 in South Hall County, a new diamond interchange linking Martin Road at Atlanta Highway/Ga. 13 east of I-985 to H.F. Reed Industrial Parkway at Thurmon Tanner Parkway west of I-985.

Maps hung around the cafeteria at Martin Technology Academy of Math and Science showing the $26 million project in detail, but many attendees were drawn to maps showing a future project: the widening of Martin Road from Atlanta Highway/Ga. 13 to Winder Highway/Ga. 53.

DOT officials said those maps were displayed because officials, as part of the interchange project, had to do environmental studies of the Martin Road corridor.

Still, residents had much to say about the future project, set for construction in 2032.

“I am more concerned about the Martin Road project because that’s the one that’s going to affect me the most,” said Wender Bulloch, who lives off the busy two-lane.

Asked about the interchange, he said “I guess I’m against that one, too.”

Bulloch added he doesn’t understand why the planned crossing over the interstate was chosen when Plainview Road crosses I-985 just north of it and Atlanta Highway crosses just south.

“To me, that makes a whole lot more sense as far as the amount of money you’re going to spend,” Bulloch said.

Glenn Williams, who also lives off Martin, said he’s concerned about road project impacts on neighborhoods along the heavily residential Martin, but he otherwise favors the interchange project.

“I think it’s great,” he said. “I wonder what (development) is going to come there. It’s kind of between Buford and Gainesville.”

The interchange project, which could go to construction in 2017, calls for construction of a four-lane road with 4-foot bike lanes on each side, 12-foot shoulders and a 5-foot sidewalk.

“This project is intended to provide direct access to I-985 for the traffic generated by the existing and proposed development along (existing roads),” including McEver Road, according to the DOT news release.

Much of the area seems primed for development.

In 2014, Oakwood approved a rezoning that would allow 302 homes on 123 acres, including 20 acres for commercial development, off Ga. 13 and north of Martin Road.

Another sign of growth: In January, Flowery Branch City Council approved a rezoning that enabled an $8 million private business expansion off Thurmon Tanner Parkway.

While Martin Road travels past homes and subdivisions, H.F. Reed leads to a heavily industrial area.

One group, Martin Road Association, believes Martin should be widened before Exit 14 is completed.

A flier explaining the group’s position says that many area residents don’t believe Exit 14 is really needed, as residents already have Exit 12 at Spout Springs Road and Exit 16 at Mundy Mill Road.

With funding in place, the new interchange “may be unstoppable,” the flier states.

And if it’s built, “that’s going to bring tons of traffic to Martin Road,” said Brad Farrow, speaking for the group. “Martin Road is a two-lane country road. That is not going to work.”