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Residents don’t want Martin Road listed on Exit 14 signs
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Construction continues Thursday, April 26, 2018, at the exit 14 interchange along Interstate 985. - photo by David Barnes

A new issue has emerged over Exit 14, the new Interstate 985 interchange rapidly taking shape in South Hall.

But this one has to do with metal, not asphalt.

“We respectfully request to remove Martin Road from the Exit 14 interstate signs on I-985,” Darlene Long, chairwoman of Martin Road Stakeholders, said in an April 22 email to state and local officials.

The northbound and southbound signs now planned for the interchange would direct motorists to Martin Road and H.F. Reed Industrial Parkway.

The issue tears at old wounds for residents — many of whom didn’t think the interchange was needed in the first place and had placed “Stop Exit 14” signs in their yards.

The $34 million interchange project calls for a diamond interchange connecting Martin Road at Ga. 13 on the east side of I-985 to H.F. Reed at Thurmon Tanner Parkway on the west side.

Opposition grew as officials planned to widen Martin Road, a two-lane stretch featuring subdivisions, churches and a Hall County school, Martin Technology Academy of Math and Science.

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Residents are petitioning local officials to remove Martin Road from future interstate signs at the new exit 14 interchange under construction along Interstate 985. - photo by David Barnes

The project, which called for a four-lane road between Falcon Parkway/Ga. 13 and Winder Highway/Ga. 53, eventually was dumped in favor of less drastic fixes — such as stop signs and a possible roundabout at JM Turk Road.

The worry has long been truck traffic through a mostly residential neighborhood.

“Martin Road does not need to be extended into a freight corridor, especially since the widening of this residential road will not happen,” Long said. “Martin Road is no longer a part of this freight exit and is a no-truck zone road.”

She said the group proposes that H.F. Reed extend to Falcon Parkway, “which would result in a logical (terminus) for this freight exit.”

“Our committee is continuing to be proactive and investigate ways to keep our area safe and manage the traffic flow, especially freight trucks onto Martin Road as a result of this exit.”

H.F. Reed runs to McEver Road, an area filled with industrial development, including King’s Hawaiian bakery off Aloha Way. Thurmon Tanner is a growing industrial area between Oakwood and Flowery Branch.

Long has the support of Hall County Commissioner Billy Powell, who has spoken out at Martin Road Stakeholder meetings.

“If you want to steer traffic away from Martin Road, you don’t advertise Martin Road up ahead,” he said.

The interchange project, awarded to G.P.’s Enterprises in July 2017, is set for completion in the fall of 2019, but is in full gear.

Bridge columns are up, and entrance and exit ramps are being graded — work that has prompted the DOT to lower the I-985 speed limit through the work zone from 70 mph to 60 mph.

“They won’t make the signs until they’re much closer to opening (the interchange),” said Katie Strickland, district spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Transportation.

Still, Long said in the email, “we feel that being proactive is our best chance to protect this unincorporated residential area of Hall County.”

Scott D. Frederick, DOT area manager, told Long by email that the group’s request “has generated the need for discussion with several offices inside of the department as well as the Gainesville-Hall County MPO.”

Long also addressed her email to the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization, the Hall area’s lead transportation planning agency.

“Please bear with us while we schedule and review your request,” Frederick said.

One other concern is the DOT’s planned widening of I-985 to six lanes from Interstate 85 in Gwinnett County to Exit 16 in Oakwood — a project that could happen in the next decade.

Exit 14 is being built to accommodate the widening, Strickland said.

“I would support it being widened all the way to Gainesville,” Long said in a phone interview. Otherwise, “I think it would create a bottleneck at Exit 16.”

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