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More optimism is driving Halls future road projects
New state revenue, federal funding help shore up hopes
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Transportation forum

What: Annual event updating area projects

When: 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday

Where: University of North Georgia’s Gainesville campus, Continuing Education Building

Cost: $15, Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce members, and $20, others, at the door

Note: Reservations are required. Call Gerri Collins, 770-532-6206, ext. 106, or gcollins@ghcc.com

Where new state roads dollars will fall in Hall County has yet to be seen, but a schedule shows the county should otherwise benefit from some $113.8 million in projects using various funding sources by June 2017.

That total includes some $84 million for new roads.

More details — and updates — will be forthcoming as the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce holds its annual transportation forum, but the tone of the event could be more upbeat thanks in part to the legislature’s passage last year of the Transportation Funding Act.

“I am more optimistic about transportation (funding), and the needs are just everywhere,” chamber president and CEO Kit Dunlap said. “I want to see the finish of that dadgum Spout Springs, Athens Highway, Ledan Road (at Sardis Road) — projects we’ve been talking about for 20 years.”

The state’s Transportation Funding Act helped usher in a new era of road funding, particularly in the area of maintenance, but it also helped set a timetable for projects.

“For the first time in decades, we have a very predictable flow of revenue,” said state Sen. Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega, vice chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee.

Helping matters is Congress’ passage last year of a five-year, $300 billion transportation funding bill. Projects use a mix of state and federal funding.

“We can now start putting these projects that have been on a wish list to work,” Gooch said. “We can, with more certainty, predict when these projects are going to start and finish.”

State officials had said they would need a full year of the new transportation money — generated largely by a 26-cent excise tax that replaced a state fuel sales tax — before being able to fully grasp where it will be spent and on what.

However, Gooch said, the current fiscal year’s budget reflects some $700 million in the new money.

“There’s going to be a lot of projects that’ll come out of the DOT in the next 4-5 months that’s going to have a positive impact on every community in Georgia,” he said.

Gooch was particularly excited about a project to resurface Ga. 60 between Dahlonega and Hall County.

“It’s unraveling in the roadway,” he said of the road’s current state.

As far as Hall tweaking its long-term roads plan because of the new and more assured funding, the DOT “has advised us to wait ... until later this year when it proceeds on any projects with funds from (the new law),” said Sam I. Baker, Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization’s senior transportation planner.

Earlier this year, Gov. Nathan Deal, joined by legislators and DOT officials, launched a website that tracked spending and progress on projects statewide. The website, www.GAroads.org, includes a construction project forecast that shows for Hall County:

• $20.2 million in new bridges;

• $84 million, new roads;

• $1.5 million, intersection/safety improvements;

• $8.1 million, resurfacing/miscellaneous maintenance.

One of Hall’s most anticipated projects on the list is a new Interstate 985 interchange between Flowery Branch and Oakwood. It now appears to be on track for construction, perhaps as early as 2017.

The project — the subject of a public hearing Tuesday at Martin Technology Academy of Math and Science — calls for the interchange to link 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.

Hall’s next big project, which could be awarded to a contractor this year, is the $40.5 million widening of Athens Highway/U.S. 129 from Gillsville Highway/Ga. 323 to the Pendergrass Bypass in Jackson County.

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