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South Hall project still alive despite missing on state aid program
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Plans for a bicycle/pedestrian connection off busy Spout Springs Road in South Hall County are still alive despite Hall not making the cut in a recent round of state transportation grants and loans.

“We’re not giving up,” said Craig Lutz, who represents South Hall on the Hall County Board of Commissioners. “This was certainly a setback, but we believe that this project is something that’s going to make the kids in our community safer.”

Jessica Robinson, Hall’s resource and grants manager, said, “We will continue to look for other grant opportunities and hope to gather support from the local delegation for the importance of this project.”

Hall had applied for $164,000 in a $370,160 project to provide a bike path/sidewalk from Flowery Branch High School to the Hall County Library System’s Spout Springs branch.

“Currently, there are no sidewalks and little roadway shoulders along Spout Springs Road,” the county’s application to the State Road and Tollway Authority stated. “These improvements will provide and promote the option for pedestrian and bicycle traffic, resulting in reduced traffic congestion.”

Hall cited the project in light of a larger one under development — the widening of Spout Springs Road between Interstate 985 in Flowery Branch and Thompson Mill Road in Braselton.

Last week, the SRTA released a list of projects statewide receiving a total of $33 million in grants and loans through the Georgia Transportation Infrastructure Bank, which was established in 2008 by the General Assembly and is administered by the authority.

State officials did announce Gainesville will get a $522,125 grant for intersection improvements along Ga. 369/Browns Bridge Road/Jesse Jewell Parkway. Also, Flowery Branch is getting a $650,000 grant and $950,000 loan for its planned Lights Ferry Connector, which will run between Ga. 13/Atlanta Highway and McEver Road.

Lutz said Hall’s project would serve as an early piece to the Spout Springs project — one that can benefit residents and motorists sooner rather than later.

Traveling in the area, “I’ll see kids walking on the side of Spout Springs Road going from the high school to the library and that’s just a dangerous area.”

Between the school and library, Spout Springs intersects with Elizabeth Lane, a busy two-lane road that leads to another entrance to the campus.

“We feel that this is (a) very important initiative for the entire Spout Springs corridor, but specifically for this area,” Robinson said.

Hall County has received a $116,000 federal grant for the project and, with the state money in hand, had planned to pay the balance of the work with $90,160 from Hall’s special purpose local option sales tax.

Bert Brantley, the SRTA’s deputy executive director, said more than two-thirds of the applications in the latest round did not get awarded.

“Funding in the program is limited, so it has become a very competitive process,” he said. “Plus, we received a record number of applications this year, so receiving an award was even tougher than previous rounds.”

Projects are ranked based on a number of factors, including economic impact and congestion reduction.

He said the authority does expect another round of awards later this year, as $9.3 million was set aside in the state’s fiscal 2014-15 budget.

“We have encouraged all of the applicants who did not receive an award in this round to consider applying again,” Brantley said.

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