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Other uses being considered for federal transportation money
Officials considering study for network of bike trails
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Area government officials are looking for ways to tap into a pot of federal transportation dollars, now that plans for a Hall County freight study that would have used that money have been shelved.

"If we don't use that money that's there, (some other state) is going to," Oakwood Mayor Lamar Scroggs said.

The topic came up last week in a meeting of the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization's policy committee, which is the MPO's decision-making body and comprises top local government officials or their representatives.

Srikanth Yamala, the agency's transportation planning manager, said the freight study, which would identify key freight, goods and services corridors and networks in the region, was set for next fiscal year, using some $135,000 in federal transportation dollars.

Because of budget constraints, Hall County government is not able provide a $35,000 percent match, Yamala said.

"If we have $35,000 from a local government, we could access that $135,000 as long as we are doing a planning study of some sort?" Oakwood City Manager Stan Brown asked.

"Right. It doesn't necessarily need to be a freight study, which is something we have been talking about for a long time," Yamala said. "Anything that (involves) the transportation element — it could be a land-use transportation study, a corridor study."

The federal funding was part of a discussion of the MPO's fiscal 2012 "Unified Planning Work Program, which describes goals, objectives and funding of the MPO in the coming fiscal year, which starts July 1.

The policy committee ended up approving the
document, which, Yamala said, can be amended later.

"Can you give us a list of what other projects these funds could be used for?" asked Scroggs, the policy committee's chairman.

"There may be something that we might want to get together on — Oakwood, Gainesville, Hall County or whatever — and share a little something and ... use (the money) in some kind of way that's going to be beneficial.

"... Maybe the city managers and planning directors can work with you and come up with something."

Yamala said that can be done.

"Back in 2005, we had a list of ... planning studies that we would like to see happen in the community," he said. "I'll visit the other cities and Hall County and see if we can come up with something."

Brown said, "We've talked a lot in South Hall about doing some master planning and looking at infrastructure — a lot beyond transportation, but there is a transportation element."

The city officials also talked about how the joint study could look at a network of biking and pedestrian trails throughout the area.

Flowery Branch City Manager Bill Andrew said the planning money could be used to pay for a biking trails plan for the entire community, one that possibly links with Gwinnett County on Hall's southern border.

Scroggs agreed, adding, "At some point and time, this is going to become a mode of travel for the working people."