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Residents offer new option to Martin Road widening plans
Alternative would divert truck traffic
This map shows the alternative option to the planned eventual widening of Martin Road in South Hall.

Martin Road area residents are pitching an alternative to current long-range plans to widen the South Hall road.

The group suggested Wednesday night a realignment of Falcon Parkway/Ga. 13 between Hog Mountain Road and Pauline Drive.

The project would, in effect, move the state route closer to the planned Exit 14 off Interstate 985 and traffic coming from I-985, particularly trucks, away from Martin Road and other residential areas.

“That’s been our thought process and we would like to respectfully ask you to consider some variation of that,” resident Gina Pilcher said as she presented the option during the first meeting of a new citizens committee tapped with looking at options.

The group met with county and state officials at Mulberry Creek Community Center off JM Turk Road, which is not far from Martin Road.

Specifically, the committee has been formed to give input to a freight study that will look at the Martin Road corridor and explore transportation options from Exit 14 to Winder Highway/Ga. 53.

Current plans call for widening the heavily residential Martin Road from Falcon Parkway to Winder Highway, but the work isn’t scheduled to start until more than a decade after the $27 million interchange is built.

Igniting the whole discussion is community opposition to Georgia Department of Transportation plans to build Exit 14 — work that could begin in late summer or early fall next year.

The project calls for a diamond interchange connecting Martin Road on the east side of I-985 to H.F. Reed Industrial Parkway on the west side.

From the outset of Wednesday’s meeting, which lasted 2-plus hours, Sam Baker of the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization — Hall’s lead transportation planning agency — told the group the meeting would focus on Martin Road alternatives, not “to revisit the merits of the new interchange.”

“We are here to get your opinions tonight,” said MPO director Srikanth Yamala, also the county’s planning director.

As for the residents’ suggestion, he wasn’t ready to offer an opinion.

“This (alternative) might be great or it might not be great, I don’t know,” Yamala said, adding that the option — among others as they come up — would have to be studied and then discussed by a series of MPO committees.

The new proposal drew raves from residents, such as David Litchfield.

“The committee got together and made a tremendous proposal … so, we need you to do your computer analysis and we need you to come and tell us what this committee … is going to present to the people who are voting,” he said.

The decision-making arm of the MPO is its policy committee, which is made up of the area’s top elected officials.

“There are other alternatives, but they all lead back to (Ga. 13),” Deborah Simental said. “To me, it makes so much more sense to use what the (state) already has than trying to come through a community.

“We need to find out what it’s going to take to get from the bridge — the diamond interchange — to the Martin Road area there and if Martin Road can be taken off the agenda, period. Just take it off any future agendas.”