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Roads agency moves 2040 plan ahead
Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization meets deadline
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An agency is moving ahead with a long-range transportation plan for Hall County, having submitted a draft to the Atlanta Regional Commission and setting up a third public hearing.

The Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization met a Monday deadline to send its 2040 Long Range Transportation Plan to the ARC, which will consider it as part of a regional transportation plan.

“We’ll keep it in the backs of our minds as we create our own plan,” said Jim Jaquish, an ARC spokesman, particularly in areas where the plans might overlap.

Hall County is not part of the ARC, belonging instead to the Gainesville-based Georgia Mountains Regional Commission.

However, it is a part of a 20-county area that has been designated as nonattainment for ozone standards and a 22-county area designated as nonattainment for fine particle particulate matter, according to the MPO’s website.

The ARC “will be including it in the air quality model ... that will make sure that even though we are adding a lot more mileage to the roads, we will not be necessarily adding a lot more pollutants to the air,” said Srikanth Yamala, transportation planning manager for the MPO.

“Simultaneously, they are working on an air quality report” that will be submitted to the state Environmental Protection Division and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Yamala said.

The U.S. Department of Transportation requires MPOs to update their long-range transportation plans every five years or every four years for those MPOs in nonattainment areas for air quality standards.

The Gainesville-Hall MPO’s last plan was adopted in August 2007 and considers potential road projects extending through 2030. The agency’s new plan must be approved by August.

The MPO has held two hearings on the plan and has one scheduled for June 14.

As with past hearings, Hall County officials want to hear the public’s take on area projects, including current projects that are closer to seeing dirt turned and replaced by asphalt.

Yamala has said he hopes to hear from residents on such topics as new roadway projects, prioritizing existing projects, travel patterns and improvements in bicycle/pedestrian paths and public transportation.

Many of the 2040 plan’s projects shouldn’t come as a major surprise to transportation watchers.

“We have been talking (about them) for years and years,” Yamala said.

Commonly touted improvements include the widening of Spout Springs Road in South Hall from two to four lanes and a four-lane connection from the Sardis Road area to Thompson Bridge Road.

If anything, projects in the 2030 plan are getting pushed back.

For example, Ga. 13/Atlanta Highway widening was in the 2030 plan and now is in the proposed tier of 2031-40 projects.

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