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Residents give input on Dawsonville Highway-McEver Road study
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David Chamberlin Sr., left, talks with Reynolds Smith & Hills representatives Steve Cote and Bev Davis Thursday, March 22, 2018, at the Gainesville Public Safety Complex during a public meeting on the Dawsonville Highway-McEver Road connectivity study. - photo by Scott Rogers

The Dawsonville Highway-McEver Road area was far less built up when Anna and Rey Resurreccion moved to Ahaluna Drive in 1984.

McDonald’s was at the corner of the two roads, but that was about the only development.

Shopping centers and restaurants now dominate the area, and the couple also is concerned about 860 homes planned in the Ahaluna area.

“You can never be in a hurry to go anywhere in that area,” Anna said, speaking of traffic congestion.

The couple was among several area residents who showed up at an informational open house meeting Thursday, March 22, to look at maps, talk to officials and give their opinions on how to fix traffic woes in the area.

The input is being collected as part of a study being conducted on possible traffic solutions by Gainesville and the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization, the Hall County area’s lead transportation planning agency.

“We’re trying to identify some potential concepts for … improvements through that area,” Gainesville Public Works Director Chris Rotalsky said.

The study “will provide recommendations for intersection improvements and/or potential street connections for alternate routes and provide a prioritization of projects for implementation of improvement,” according to an online survey that’s part of the process.

“We want the public to understand what we’re trying to do, understand the challenges involved in the corridor and certainly define what is important to (them),” Rotalsky said.

The two-part survey will “help the project team understand why, how and when people utilize the study area,” according to a city of Gainesville press release. Survey responses will be accepted through April 6.

Readers will be asked why and when they travel to the area and their experiences with traffic congestion, as well as “a short mapping exercise allowing drivers to give specific geographic details.”

As of Thursday evening, government officials had gotten about 460 survey responses.

“So, we’re getting good feedback,” Rotalsky said.

Another area resident, Doug Forrester, said, “I think the absolute No. 1 priority should be to figure out how to build a loop road around Gainesville. It would get the congestion out of the core of the town.”

“For so many years, they’ve used the excuse here (that the lake is a barrier),” he added. “Well, this country has been building bridges for a long time.”

Forrester said he also believes the city “needs to start addressing how they’re allowing this development to occur without setting up access roads, where you have a road that’s parallel to the main road … and provides (access) to any commercial activities, apartment complexes or anything.”

The study will produce conceptual recommendations — a process that will take about a year to complete, Rotalsky said.

The concepts “won’t be the engineered solution,” he said. “As much as we’d love to go from this study into some construction, that’s just not how that (would happen).”

The key next step would be financing.

Road improvements are “going to be an expensive undertaking, so we’d have to work on funding and building a coalition for that funding … and that would have to involve not just Gainesville on the local level but will require state input,” Rotalsky said.