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New bike/ped panel would target projects that can be done sooner
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Rather than let a newly completed bicycle-pedestrian plan collect dust, area officials agreed Wednesday to form a committee that would talk about possibly kick-starting “some early-action” projects.

“There’s several things I think we can do as a good demonstration of how to connect some stuff together,” Oakwood City Manager Stan Brown told the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization’s technical coordinating committee, a group comprising area planners and engineers.

The MPO serves as Hall County’s road planning agency. The agency’s decision-making policy committee voted in March to approve a $146 million bicycle-pedestrian plan that features 39 recommended projects, including 10 “high-priority” ones estimated to cost $39 million.

The plan doesn’t have designated funding. Instead, it will be considered as part of the MPO’s long-range transportation plan update, a process underway with completion by August 2015.

Brown said, however, that several governments have immediate interest or plans for certain projects, such as Gainesville’s Midtown Greenway and Hall County’s Central Hall Multiuse Trail, which are nearing the bidding phase.

Gainesville, Hall County, Braselton and Flowery Branch officials said they’d be interested in the effort.

“We’ll do some work and come back to this group with some recommendations and see if we can come up with some ideas,” Brown said.

Officials did update the group on some trail work that’s being developed.

Gainesville Community Development Director Rusty Ligon said the city hopes to begin construction in early 2015 on the second phase of the Midtown Greenway.

“We’ve got other phases that we’re planning that takes us in all different directions,” he said.

And Jody Woodall, civil engineer with Hall, said he hopes to put the Central Hall Multiuse Trail out for bid in August.

The trail would start at Palmour Drive in Gainesville, then run along Ga. 13/Atlanta Highway to near Frontage Road, including through the historic Chicopee Village.

The second phase will run from the Georgia Department of Labor office off Atlanta Highway to near Lanier Technical College and the University of North Georgia’s Gainesville campus.

The work would include construction of a pedestrian tunnel under Ga. 13.

Brown also said he would like officials to consider, at some point, adopting a formal “complete” streets policy as part of the long-range plan’s development.

The Georgia Department of Transportation has such a policy in place already.

On its website, the DOT says it “coordinates with local governments and regional planning agencies to ensure that bicycle, pedestrian and transit needs are addressed beginning with system planning and continuing through design, construction, and maintenance and operations.

“This is the ... approach for promoting pedestrian, bicycle, and transit modes of travel in Georgia.”

Brown acknowledged the DOT policy, but said, “My thought is that, as that we work through our plan here, we may tweak that to be a little bit more reflective of our needs in this community.”

In an earlier interview, the city manager cited the new Ga. 347 in South Hall as an example of a project that would fit the policy. The road, which is under construction in four- and six-lane stretches between Ga. 211 and Interstate 985, will feature 10-foot multiuse paths suitable for pedestrians and bicyclists.

“It’s important that we adopt policies that encourage us to at least look at each road project that comes along to make sure we try to incorporate other modes of transportation within that right of way,” Brown said.

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