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Millions in Hall County road funds evaporate
$1.4B in revenues expected for road projects; $800M less than planned
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Public hearing

What: The Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization is holding a public hearing on a preliminary list of projects in its 2040 plan.
When: 5:30-7 p.m. Thursday
Where: Hall County Government Center, 2875 Browns Bridge Road, Gainesville
More info: Sam Baker, 770-297-2604

The Hall County area is expected to receive about $1.4 billion for road projects through 2040 from local, state and federal sources, government officials learned Thursday.

That amount represents $800 million less than what was projected in the current 2040 plan, which was completed in August 2011.

The numbers were presented as part of ongoing updates related to the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization’s federally required update of the long-range plan.

The MPO serves as the lead transportation planning agency for the Hall area, which includes West Jackson County.

Officials didn’t speculate as to why the revenue projections were much lower, but the numbers became sort of an issue as they talked about the time frames for projects — in particular, Spout Springs Road widening and the Sardis Connector.

County officials expressed displeasure that the Sardis project, which would complete a link between Ga. 53/Dawsonville Highway and Ga. 60/Thompson Bridge Road, had been ranked lower than projects they deemed not as needed, such as the Northern Connector.

The Northern Connector would link Ga. 60 and Ga. 365.

“The project is moving backwards,” said Hall road projects engineer Jody Woodall. “Every time we have taken this to the public previously, it’s been one of the highest-ranked projects. So now you’re going against the public input ... and we tend to lose credibility in that respect.”

The project has been placed in a proposed 2021-30 time frame, whereas Spout Springs is in 2015-20.

Srikanth Yamala, Hall County planner, noted the fewer dollars available for projects in the updated plan.

“That’s a significant reduction,” he said. “Given the fact that we could get right-of-way money reimbursed from (the Georgia Department of Transportation) for Spout Springs, we are moving with that.

“With Sardis, we don’t have a similar arrangement with DOT. The county has to come up with the $22 million (in right-of-way money) on its own.”

Pond & Co., a Norcross firm helping with the long-range plan, also presented a “tiered” listing of the projects, or projects divided into time frames between 2015 and 2040.

One project that received attention this year, through a DOT public hearing, was the widening of U.S. 129/Cleveland Highway between Limestone Parkway and Nopone Road in North Hall.

That project, estimated to cost $84 million, is proposed for 2031-40, a time frame that may not come as a surprise to many residents. The project has been discussed for a couple of decades already, with residents saying at a February hearing they believe the road will be widened when work actually starts.

Overall, Pond estimates the Hall area has some $2.42 billion in projects that have been left off a “financially constrained” plan and otherwise dubbed as “aspirations.”

Among those are the Northern Connector, projected to cost $227 million; widening Interstate 985 from the Gwinnett County line to Exit 24, estimated at $514 million; and widening Ga. 365 and adding three diamond interchanges from Exit 24 to the Habersham County line, $213 million.

Officials are planning public hearings on the long-range plan Thursday and Jan. 8. The document is set for an August completion.

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