Yet another alternative emerged Wednesday night in the ongoing saga of how to lessen the impact of the planned Exit 14 in South Hall on the mostly residential Martin Road.
The new proposal, unveiled at a Martin Road Corridor Study Stakeholder Committee meeting, would remove Hall County’s long-term plans to widen Martin Road from Atlanta Highway/Ga. 13 to Winder Highway/Ga. 53.
And it calls for building left and right turn lanes at Martin Road and Ga. 13 — or at the new Interstate 985 interchange — so that traffic would not be able to go straight on Martin Road from Exit 14, or vice versa.
“This seems like the most workable solution to get the problem solved in the shortest amount of time,” said Flowery Branch Mayor Mike Miller, who spoke to the crowd about the alternative.
The Georgia Department of Transportation has told county officials that the interchange project will go to bids later this year, said Sam Baker of the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization, Hall County’s lead transportation planning agency, in an email last week.
In that email, he listed several Martin Road alternatives, including the less palatable one of leaving Martin as a two-lane road and in the direct path of Exit 14 traffic.
The newest alternative, developed since Baker’s email, earned some positive reviews from residents, who have been bitterly opposed to both the interchange and Martin Road widening projects.
After Miller spoke to the crowd, residents asked the group for a show of hands of those favoring or opposing the widening of Martin Road. Nearly everyone in the group raised their hands when asked if they opposed the widening.
“I will look at it seriously,” said Darlene Long, one of the group’s leaders, of the newest option. “It might be a good option. I haven’t had a chance to look at it.”
“Our No. 1 (priority) is to get the widening off the table. The problem is we have to route the traffic.”
Miller said officials “would have to work with the (Hall County) school board and find out how Martin (Technology Academy) is going to get in and out — they could not go straight across the interstate.
“But you shouldn’t have kids that ride a bus that would need to get on the interstate.”
The $27 million diamond interchange would connect Martin Road at Ga. 13 on the east side of I-985 to H.F. Reed Industrial Parkway at Thurmon Tanner Parkway on the west side.
Officials’ other alternatives to widening Martin Road call for realigning Martin Road so that it would connect to Ga. 13 and/or Hog Mountain Road south of Martin Road’s current connection at Ga. 13.
In each case, improvements to the JM Turk intersection would be made and “the existing section of Martin Road which connects to Atlanta Highway (would) become a cul-de-sac just northwest of the (Hall County) fire station driveway,” Baker said in the email.
Srikanth Yamala, Hall planning director and MPO head, said that officials would review comments from Wednesday’s meeting about the alternatives.
“Based on that, we will have one more meeting with (the Martin Road group), in March or April, and present, hopefully, an alternative that we can all reach consensus on,” Yamala said.
The preferred alternative or alternatives eventually would go to the MPO’s decision-making policy committee — a group of top area elected officials — for final approval.
“If that (approved) alternative requires that Martin Road would not be widened, that’s when we would amend the long-range plan to remove (the widening),” Yamala said.
He added that “the DOT would have to sign off on operational movements” in the alternative featuring the right and left turn lanes, as those would be part of the new interchange.