The current plan to widen Spout Springs Road will put residents of Ivy Springs in danger, homeowners argue.
About a dozen homeowners from the Flowery Branch neighborhood turned out to the Hall County Board of Commissioners meeting on Thursday to argue that the neighborhood needs a median cut and traffic light when Spout Springs Road is widened.
They came to the meeting to argue against a plan from the county to go ahead with the project as designed and revisit it 10-to-12 months after it’s completed.
More than 7 miles of Spout Springs is being widened by the Georgia Department of Transportation with federal funding. The plan calls for right-in, right-out lanes only in the neighborhood, which opens onto the busy Spout Springs Road about one mile south of Hog Mountain Road.
“We have 168 homes, but we only have one entryway in and out of that subdivision,” said Charles Chapman, a Ivy Springs homeowner speaking for the group of residents. “… Most of them are two-car families, so that already makes it kind of a difficult strain getting in and out today.”
With the new plan, residents would have to turn right and then make a U-turn once on Spout Springs Road. Chapman argued that would make if difficult, if not impossible, for school buses, fire trucks and work vehicles to get in and out of the subdivision without going unreasonably out of their way.
Given the wider highway and the speed of traffic on Spout Springs Road, which is usually moving faster than 50 to 60 mph on the straight stretch near Ivy Springs Road, getting across the road to make that U-turn will usually be a dangerous task during rush hour, Chapman and fellow homeowner Nancy Duncan argued.
“We’re not here tonight because we think this project is not going to be pretty — I’m sure it’s going to be,” Duncan said. “We’re here trying to make you understand that this plan is dangerous to the safety of the people in our subdivision, and it’s very dangerous to the people who are using Spout Springs Road.”
And county commissioners were sympathetic. Commissioner Kathy Cooper moved to postpone the vote to revisit the issue one year after the widening is complete — it doesn’t even hit the bid market until 2020 — but that doesn’t mean the plan is going to change.
It probably won’t.
The problem is federal funding and management by GDOT, according to Public Works Director Ken Rearden.
“We have been doing environmental studies and traffic studies and air and noise studies … for the past three or four years,” Rearden said, noting that permitting started seven years ago. “We have now gotten approval with all of those studies. To go back and reconfigure this road, even if it’s just adding a median break and a traffic signal, will back us up into doing some configuration of these environmental studies again.”
Residents of Ivy Springs were told as much in meetings with Cooper and county staff leading up to Thursday’s meeting, but the explanation hasn’t sat well with the community — especially as the work hasn’t even gotten close to starting.
“This project is at least five miles long, so the whole project would have to be reworked to change a section that is not as long as a football field?” Duncan asked. “... Right now it’s still on paper. Not a single tree has been cut. No dirt has been moved. Utility work as not started. Now is the time to fix this. We know it will not be done after the fact, and if it is it will be years and years from now. In the meantime, how many accidents will we have had?”
Chapman asked that the commission “look at this plan and help us out. We understand that we can’t get everything that we want. We want this road to happen, but we want it to be safe and want it to work for us as well.”
Rearden said if it was just a county project, the issue could have been solved on Thursday. But without the federal funding, red tape or no, Spout Springs wouldn’t be widened at all.
“The county couldn’t afford this project,” Rearden said.
He did note that concerns about the lack of a median cut were likely brought up during one of the open houses scheduled in previous years, but the neighborhood was “more organized now.”
On Thursday, Cooper told the speakers that they were “eloquent,” and Commissioner Billy Powell said the commission “can’t make any promises, but we appreciate you taking the time.”
For now, the county has proposed allowing the project to finish and in the year after it’s done, do another traffic study and add a traffic light that would serve both Ivy Springs Road and Oak Ridge Road.
Commissioners unanimously voted to table the vote to authorize county staff to wait until the project is complete to revisit the issue. They’ll take the vote back up in late January, with public works staff exploring options in the interim.