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Roundabouts proposed to ease Green Street traffic
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A rendering of the proposed Green Street and Academy Street roundabout concept from the Georgia Department of Transportation. - photo by Scott Rogers

Roundabouts at either end of busy Green Street in Gainesville are being considered by the Georgia Department of Transportation.

Conceptual drawings released at a Green Street Stakeholders meeting Wednesday afternoon show the projects taking place at E.E. Butler Parkway and Academy Street and at Thompson Bridge Road/Ga. 60 and Riverside Drive.

The roundabouts would feature two inner lanes and “most approaches would have two entryways,” said Andrew J. Antweiler, project manager with the city’s consultant firm on Green Street improvements, Norcross-based Pond & Company.

Gainesville Public Works Director Chris Rotalsky was quick to add: “What you’re seeing here is a purely conceptual graphic representation. They’ve not been engineer-designed yet.”

Antweiler said Pond “also recognizes that roundabouts are probably the first in the city. So, there may be some hesitation — typically we see that in communities.

“But as we inform people and people get to understand how roundabouts work, they realize how they can benefit from them.”

When asked about the DOT’s efforts regarding the roundabouts, district spokeswoman Katie Strickland said in a later email, “We are working closely with the city. Nothing has been finalized, but we support the improvements along Green Street.”

Roundabouts have become a trendy piece of infrastructure in Hall County.

A single-lane roundabout opened this fall at Sardis and Ledan roads in northwest Hall County, and a single-lane roundabout opened last year in Flowery Branch.

The DOT also is planning to include a single-lane roundabout as part of widening Lanier Islands Parkway/Ga. 347 from McEver Road to Lanier Islands resort in South Hall.

Also, in drawings shown to an audience made up largely of city officials and Green Street businesspeople, Green Street between those two roundabout nodes would be revised as well.

Work along that stretch — where DOT traffic counts show 34,700 vehicles travel every day — would add a little width to each of the traffic lanes, a 5-foot median where drains could be placed and slimmer, possibly “meandering” sidewalks that wouldn’t be as close to the road as they are now.

Underground utilities also could be part of the effort.

The overall project could require 8 feet of right of way on either side of Green Street.

Pond suggested that the median, which could be landscaped, would present an image of Green Street as a “safe street.”

That prompted an immediate reaction from Frank Norton Jr. of The Norton Agency.

“(The median) improves the perception of Green Street as a safe street. It does not improve the image,” he said.

State Rep. Lee Hawkins, R-Gainesville, who has a dental practice on Green Street, objected to the median.

“That would encroach on our property quite a bit,” he said.

Another nearby project that’s been under consideration for a while is improvements to Oak Tree Drive between Thompson Bridge Road and Riverside Drive, or just north of the Thompson Bridge Road/Riverside split.

Considered by some as a sort of “inner bypass,” fixes there could help steer traffic — particularly trucks — off Green Street by directing them down Limestone Parkway and Jesse Jewell Parkway, heading toward Interstate 985.

Rotalsky has bristled at the “bypass” notion of that project, saying it is “more designed to be an improving of roadways to handle more (traffic) volume.”

Vance C. Smith Jr., a former DOT commissioner who works with Pond in business development, said the Oak Tree project “is purely in a concept mode to try to relieve some of the heavy congestion.

“... Hopefully, we’ll decrease some of the truck traffic in that corridor.”

Overall, “these (projects) are all steps to improve the overall network,” Rotalsky said. “There’s never one silver bullet that fixes an entire system.”

Officials compiled comments from stakeholders as part of Wednesday’s meeting, Gainesville City Manager Bryan Lackey said.

He said another stakeholders meeting will be held likely in early 2018.

“It really depends on the consensus of the group where we go from there,” Lackey said.

Another consideration is “what (the DOT) wants” to do with the project, he said.

Also, the city could work with the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization, the Hall County area’s lead transportation planning agency, “to see if we have consensus to move to a design phase,” Lackey said.

“This is a long process … and we want to make sure we make the right improvements,” Smith said. “There will be further input and further public hearings for the entire community.”

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