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Residents voice ideas about 2040 transportation plan for area
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Sardis area residents Glenn and Virginia Waldrip look for Ledan Road on the maps at Wednesday’s transportation hearing at the Georgia Mountains Center.

The flip chart heading asked for suggestions about existing roadways and new corridors.

“Don’t build anything,” someone wrote. “Build it and they will come.”

Others weren’t quite as blunt as they offered up suggestions and comments about possible long-range transportation improvements during a public hearing Wednesday night at the Georgia Mountains Center.

About 50 people showed up with a wide range of thoughts and ideas about the hot-button topic in what was the first of four such hearings sponsored by the Gainesville-Hall County Metropolitan Planning Organization.

“The citizens are the most important part of this process,” said Randy Knighton, Hall County’s planning director. “We encourage you to be involved and stay abreast of what will transpire during this process.

“We will certainly seek every opportunity and avenue to reach out to the public for your input during our planning process.”

The planning group is moving toward completing its 2040 transportation plan by August 2011.

Federal requirements state that all metropolitan areas with more than 50,000 residents, such as Gainesville-Hall, develop and maintain such a plan. The area is now operating with the 2030 Long-Range Transportation Plan, which was adopted in August 2007.

Maps and charts depicting the 2030 plan and other transportation facets, including Hall Area Transit’s Red Rabbit bus service, were on display at Wednesday’s night hearing.

Officials presented information about the planning process, as well as key population and employment projections. For example, Hall County is projected to grow to 561,812 residents by 2040 from 184,814 in 2008.

Then, audience members got a chance to have their say.

Brian Rochester with Rochester & Associates in Gainesville pitched the idea of improving Lanier Islands Parkway from McEver Road to Lake Lanier Islands, about a three-mile project.

The Georgia Department of Transportation is planning to widen the parkway from McEver Road to Interstate 985 and Friendship Road from I-985 to Ga. 211/Old Winder Highway. Lanier Islands Parkway becomes Friendship Road after it crosses the interstate.

“We’re stopping a little short (with the project),” Rochester said. “On this portion of the road, probably 50 percent of the roadway was purchased prior to 1996 in anticipation of the Olympics. But the project was just never finished.”

James Lester, who lives in the Sardis Road area of northwest Hall, asked officials about the status of widening Sardis Road between Ga. 53/Dawsonville Highway and Ga. 60/Thompson Bridge Road.

He said the project has gotten promoted as part of sales-tax votes in the county, “but then you don’t hear about it after that.

“We’ve always talked about a connector around Gainesville and that would be a good start right there,” he said.

Hall County Engineer Kevin McInturff said the project is still in design.

“It’s a very lengthy process,” he said.

One person aired concerns about the Northern Connector, a conceptual road that included the Sardis Road connector to form part of an arc across North Hall. The rest of the connector would have featured a road from Thompson Bridge Road to Ga. 365.

Last year, the Hall County Board of Commissioners requested that the planning organization’s policy committee exclude the Northern Connector as part of the 2040 plan, Knighton said.

“That request was ratified by the policy committee,” he said, “so those concepts that were initially shown ... will not be considered as part of this long-range (plan).”

The planning group expects to hold a public hearing in the fall and two next year.

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