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South Hall trail system being considered
Officials hope to do study using federal planning money
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A portion of the underground pedestrian tunnel is completed on the Department of Labor side of Atlanta Highway, but construction continues on the other side of the road. Federal funding is being sought for studying a multi-use trail connecting Oakwood and Sterling on the Lake in Flowery Branch.

Policy Committee

What: Hall County transportation group to consider seeking federal money for trail expansion study

When: 10 a.m. Aug. 8

Where: Hall County Government Center, 2875 Browns Bridge Road, Gainesville

A trail system extending deep into South Hall from the Highlands to Islands trail ending near the University of North Georgia’s campus in Oakwood is being explored by government officials.

The potential multi-use trail would run between Mundy Mill Road in Oakwood to Friendship Road/Ga. 347 near Flowery Branch and Buford.

It would run along Thurmon Tanner Parkway, Atlanta Highway/Ga. 13, Hog Mountain Road, Spout Springs Road, Capitola Farm Road, then cut through Sterling on the Lake subdivision before resuming on Blackjack Road near Cherokee Bluffs Park.

The trail then would run along Blackjack before cutting over to Hog Mountain Road and traveling farther south before ending at Ga. 347.

The South Hall trail concept started about five years ago as officials learned that the widening of Ga. 347 would include a multi-use path and then later that the Spout Springs Road widening also would have such an amenity, City Manager Flowery Branch Bill Andrew said.

“The idea was we would study connecting Friendship Road to Spout Springs, then working with Oakwood and (Hall County) to see how we could bring that energy from those paths up Thurmon Tanner Parkway to existing (trails),” he said, speaking last week at a transportation planning meeting.

Hall County has been involved in building the Highlands to Islands Trail’s Chicopee Section, a pedestrian/bicycling trail that runs mostly parallel to Ga. 13 as it winds past the Chicopee Woods Golf Course and historic Chicopee Village.

The 11-foot wide concrete path then juts off through woods and ends up at Palmour Drive near Lee Gilmer Memorial Airport.

The trail, which opened in spring 2016, is 2½ miles long.

As part of the effort, work is well underway on a tunnel under Atlanta Highway/Ga. 13 near the Georgia Department of Labor office. Officials have said the work could be completed by early fall.

“Ultimately, it’s very doable — based on what we see — to have people going from Midtown (Gainesville) on a bicycle down to Lake Lanier Islands or even Braselton using nothing but bike paths,” Andrew said.

Ga. 347 extends from Hog Mountain Road west to the Lanier Islands resort, with a multi-use path running to McEver Road. The Georgia Department of Transportation is planning to widen Ga. 347 from McEver to the resort — a project featuring a multi-use path.

Meanwhile, the self-taxing Braselton Community Improvement District has built multi-use paths around and along Old Winder Highway/Ga. 211 in Hall, Gwinnett and Barrow counties. Friendship Road dead-ends at Ga. 211.

“If we can have all this done, we’d have more mileage, I think, than the Silver Comet,” Andrew said.

The Silver Comet Trail is 61½ miles long, starting in Smyrna and ending at the Georgia-Alabama state line near Cedartown, according to the trail’s website.

Officials are proposing that the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization, the Hall area’s main transportation planning agency, seek federal planning money to help with a study of the trail expansion.

The MPO’s decision-making policy committee, a group of top elected officials from the area, would consider the matter at its Aug. 8 meeting.

A map depicting the potential trail route “is just a conceptual plan at this point,” Andrew said by email Tuesday.

“If the planning funds are awarded, we will have the ability to more closely study this route and discuss alternatives with property owners in the area,” he said.

Gainesville also is seeking federal money to study how best to connect the Midtown Greenway to Highlands to Islands — trails systems now separated by a major four-lane road, Queen City Parkway/Ga. 60.

A study could show how the trail might intertwine with intersections between the two trails, such as Palmour Drive at Aviation Boulevard and Georgia Avenue at Industrial Boulevard.

For years, Gainesville has been developing its Midtown Greenway, an urban path for pedestrians and bicyclists, running south of Jesse Jewell Parkway.

Potential trail map
Potential trail map
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