Motorists who have ever wondered how to quickly get from Ga. 60/Thompson Bridge Road to Ga. 365 — or vice versa — one day may have their answer.
Transportation officials and community leaders are proposing the Northern Connector as an eventual, possible solution to cross-county travel, especially as the area continues to grow.
Dirt is far from being turned on the project, which will be considered as the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization updates its long-range transportation plan, giving looks to projects that could get under way up to 2040.
“The importance of why we’re looking at this is the growth that’s going to occur in Hall County,” said Jeff Carroll of Columbia, S.C.-based Wilbur Smith Associates, which has handled the technical study for the connector. “It is estimated that almost 400,000 (will live in Hall) in 2030.”
Carroll is senior transportation planner with the firm.
“We certainly want to be able to accommodate that through travel,” he added. “One of the reasons we’re looking at this north of Gainesville is there is really no good east-west connectivity (there).”
A burst of cars is expected on many North Hall roads between now and 2030, according to the study.
For example, some 60,000 cars per day could travel on Ga. 365 by that year, compared to 28,580 in 2008. Even more cars, 69,570 per day, are expected on Thompson Bridge Road by 2030, compared to 19,210 in 2008.
As many as 33,036 cars per day are projected to travel on the four-lane Northern Connector in 2030.
Officials hope that motorists eventually will be able to travel on four lanes between Dawsonville Highway in West Hall to Ga. 365 by using the planned Sardis Connector, which will end at Thompson Bridge Road near Mount Vernon Road, and then the Northern Connector.
Planners are considering two primary routes for the Northern Connector, with both having their western side starting near Mount Vernon Road.
One route would feature the road ending on Ga. 365 at White Sulphur Road and the other at Whitehall Road. White Sulphur and Whitehall are about two miles apart on Ga. 365.
The White Sulphur route would run about 7.5 miles and the Whitehall route, 9.2 miles.
“The wetlands impact is a little bit more with (White Sulphur),” Carroll said. “It is a little bit farther south and has more impact on (Lake Lanier).”
The Northern Connector could wind up costing about $150 million, Carroll said.
The Sardis Connector has been estimated at $24 million, with the county paying for engineering and right-of-way acquisition.
“The timeline (for the Sardis project) is in (the county’s) court,” said Teri Pope, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Transportation. “We do not have construction funds scheduled.”
Jody Woodall, a civil engineer with the Hall Public Works Department, said right-of-way money is set aside in the county’s 1-cent sales tax program but probably won’t be spent for several years — or only after “we have the design to a point where we can begin acquiring right of way.”
Srikanth Yamala, transportation planning manager for the metro organization, said the plan is to take the Northern Connector, as a concept, to the public in the next couple of years.
The Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization plans to adopt the 2040 plan by August 2011.
“I want to emphasize that it is a technical study (that has been completed),” he said. “... We’re not talking about alignments or right-of-way acquisitions anytime in the near future. All we are looking at is what sort of options we have if the community wants to pursue this.”
Still, Carroll said, “There are a lot of exciting things with this (initiative). As with any kind of project ... we’re starting to get into the weeds.”
The organization has held three meetings with “stakeholders,” or area residents and community leaders with a vested interest in the project.
One of those was Dixie Truelove, a Clermont resident and vice president of Elmer Truelove Dairy. She is also part of the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce’s Vision 2030 group.
“There is truly no way to get from one side of the county to the other side of the county in the northern end, same as there is no way to get from this side of North Georgia to the northwest side of (the state),” she said.
“I was just interested in where the thoughts were on ... how (the connector) might be used best to try to move traffic somehow off Green Street and around Gainesville (for motorists not) needing to be in downtown Gainesville.”