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Residents discuss Spout Springs, Friendship roads projects
Community expresses opinions, gives ideas
Lisa Cunningham looks at plans for Spout Springs Road with Speedy Boutwell during a road forum at Spout Springs Elementary School Thursday evening.Boutwell is with the design firm that is working on the road project design. - photo by Tom Reed

Transportation officials answered questions and concerns, as well as laid out additional plans Thursday night during two separate public meetings for improvement to Spout Springs and Friendship roads.

A widening project on Spout Springs Road is still in the initial design stages and construction is not expected to begin for at least a couple of years. Another widening project on Friendship Road, though, is expected to begin as early as next summer.

The heavily traveled roads pass through mainly residential areas that include schools and subdivisions, and the widening projects have raised concerns among residents in the affected areas.

The Friendship Road project is nearly set to begin widening construction between Hog Mountain Road and the Gwinnett County line.

During a meeting at Spout Springs School of Enrichment Thursday, officials displayed two large aerial photos of the corridor, giving residents an opportunity to write any concerns or suggestions.

Jody Woodall, Hall County civil engineer, was on hand to answer any questions or concerns raised involving the $46.3 million Spout Springs project.

Other officials were also on hand to provide assistance as well.

"We have started the design process," Woodall said.

"We're kind of early on into it doing data collection with the traffic, obviously identifying historic resources and other environmental resources."

The proposed four lane road will need to be separated by a median and bicycle and pedestrian space could be included along the corridor.

Dependant upon various factors, the medians could either be raised, landscaped or flush, which is essentially a dual turn lane.

"It's dependant upon the traffic conditions and the access and who needs to go where, when," Hall County project manager Margie Pozin said.

"So if you have commercial development and you need people to make more left turns than you would in a residential area you may either have more median openings or you may have a flush median," she said.

That could mean some residents along the stretch of road may not be able to make a left turn out of their property or subdivision and instead would be required to make a U-turn.

"We're going to try to strategically locate them so that they are convenient and accessible to the greatest amount of people and we're going to locate U-turns as frequently as possible," Pozin said.

The fewer opportunities to make a left turn, Pozin said, could reduce wrecks. She also said the addition of traffic lights at certain intersections will also increase safety and allow for U-turns.

Officials will take any ideas presented by the public at the meeting and potentially use those ideas to make any changes before holding another public meeting at a later time, Woodall said.

"What we're trying to do is get buy-in from the community, get some ideas from the community so that we can come back later with a concept and bring it back for another open house," he said.

And members of the community did present ideas and concerns at the meeting.

One resident wrote on the aerial display suggesting a traffic light at the intersection of Capitola Farm Road and Spout Springs Road, as well as adding a left turn lane to ease congestion.

Other residents had concerns regarding the project and even questioned the need for four lanes.

Betsy Turner, of Flowery Branch, raised concerns that rather than increase safety it would actually lead to more problems.

"There's so many houses and subdivisions coming off the road that, I think, going to a four lane is going to be even more problematic," she said.

With Flowery Branch High School right in the middle of the proposed project, Turner believes young drivers will be more inclined to drive faster with more space.

School bus safety is another concern Turner raised.

"There's so many houses on the road, even if it's four lanes with the school buses stopping ... it will be more of a hazard to the children who are going to have to watch out," she said.

The Ga. 347/Friendship Road widening from Interstate 985 to Ga. 211/Old Winder Highway is being overseen by the Georgia Department of Transportation.

A public forum was held at Friendship Elementary School Thursday to discuss the project and detour routes necessary during construction.

According to the DOT, 278 people attended the forum.

Officials were considering the need for noise-walls installations along various locations of the project, but Teri Pope, spokeswoman of the Department of Transportation's Gainesville-based District 1, said Thursday those walls will not be necessary.

Planning of the 7.9-mile, $47.9 million project is in its final stages and officials hope to award a contract in April. The DOT has acquired 211 of 254 parcels needed for the project.

"We're still negotiating with property owners and finalizing that process," Pope said.

Detours during the project will be limited to the Friendship Road intersections and will last a maximum of 21 days in any location. Roads that will be periodically closed include Jones Road, Bogan Road, Swansey Road, Puckett Road and Dunbar Road.

The route of Jones Road between Friendship and its intersection with Bogan Road will be closed at some point and a detour will be along Bogan Road.

During the closing of Bogan Road between its intersection with Friendship and Jones Road, Jones Road will be the detour route.

The route of Black Jack Road to Hog Mountain Road to Friendship Road will be the detour while Swansey Road is closed.

When Puckett Road is closed between its intersection with Friendship and Old Thompson Mill Road, Thompson Mill to Dunbar Road to Friendship will be the designated detour.

When Dunbar Road is closed between its intersection with Friendship and Thompson Mill, the detour will be the route of Thompson Mill to Puckett Road to Friendship.

Pope estimates once construction begins it should be completed in about 3 1/2 years. The project will be split into two phases with the first focusing on Spout Springs road to Old Winder Highway.

Many residents affected by the project view it as a necessary improvement.

"Traffic is getting insane," Rick Gebelein of Chateau Elan said.

"Thompson Mill and the five-points intersection at Spout Springs was an insanity. It will be fine when it comes in especially with the hospital bringing more traffic."

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