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Pedestrian/biking tunnel could open to public in early 2018
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The pedestrian tunnel under Ga. 13 at the Department of Labor office has gotten state and federal approvals and could open in early 2018. Hall County officials are working on tunnel lighting and a drainage problem. - photo by Scott Rogers

A pedestrian/bicycling tunnel under Atlanta Highway/Ga. 13 at the Georgia Department of Labor office could be open to the public in early 2018.

Hall County officials are working on some last-minute issues, such as tunnel lighting and a drainage problem, County Engineer Kevin McInturff said.

“We’re re-establishing some grades in the bottom of the tunnel,” he said. “There’s one area where it’s puddling a little bit.”

McInturff said he hopes the fixes can take place over the next few weeks.

“Everything this time of this year is so weather-dependent,” he said.

The county has gotten approvals on the project from the Georgia Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration, McInturff said.

The tunnel is part of the Highlands to Islands trail system’s Chicopee section, which runs mostly parallel to Ga. 13 as it winds past the Chicopee Woods Golf Course and historic Chicopee Village.

The 11-foot wide concrete path then juts off through woods and ends up at Palmour Drive near the Lee Gilmer Memorial Airport.

The trail, which opened in the spring of 2016, is 2 ½ miles long.

The $2.3 million project was funded by federal funds and Hall County special purpose local option sales tax money.

Originally, the trail was going to continue to the University of North Georgia’s Gainesville campus in Oakwood, but a funding shortfall put the trail’s end at the Department of Labor, McInturff said.

To improve access, county officials are looking at connecting the trail to the sidewalk on Ga. 13, he said.

“There’s some discussion on that,” he said.

The new trail also could factor into a larger network of pathways extending deep into South Hall.

The Hall County Board of Commissioners this week approved a contract with an Atlanta firm to study the potential for a multi-use trail between Mundy Mill Road in Oakwood to Friendship Road/Ga. 347 near Flowery Branch and Buford.

The trail would run along Thurmon Tanner Parkway, Atlanta Highway/Ga. 13, Hog Mountain Road, Spout Springs Road, Capitola Farm Road, then cut through Sterling on the Lake subdivision before resuming on Blackjack Road near Cherokee Bluffs Park.

It then would run along Blackjack before cutting over to Hog Mountain Road and traveling farther south before ending at Ga. 347.

Ga. 347 extends from Hog Mountain Road west to the Lanier Islands resort, with a multi-use path running to McEver Road. The DOT is working to widen Ga. 347 from McEver to the resort — a project featuring a multi-use path.

Meanwhile, the self-taxing Braselton Community Improvement District has built multi-use paths around and along Old Winder Highway/Ga. 211 in Hall, Gwinnett and Barrow counties. Friendship Road dead-ends at Ga. 211.

The South Hall trail concept started about five years ago as officials learned that the widening of Ga. 347 would include a multi-use path and that the Spout Springs Road widening would have such an amenity, Flowery Branch City Manager Bill Andrew said in July.

“The idea was we would study connecting Friendship Road to Spout Springs, then working with Oakwood and (Hall County) to see how we could bring that energy from those paths up Thurmon Tanner Parkway to existing (trails),” he said.

“Ultimately, it’s very doable — based on what we see — to have people going from Midtown (Gainesville) on a bicycle down to Lake Lanier Islands or even Braselton using nothing but bike paths,” Andrew said.

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The pedestrian tunnel under Ga. 13 at the Department of Labor office, as part of Highlands to Islands trail system near Chicopee Woods, has gotten state and federal approvals and could open in early 2018. - photo by Scott Rogers
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