0802ROADSaudSouth Hall resident Martha Glenn talks about what she see as the new Flowery Branch High School’s impact on area traffic.
Here’s a simple equation for the coming school year: A new South Hall high school equals a batch of new traffic for already busy Spout Springs Road.
The road once served as a lazy ride in the country, but massive subdivisions and commercial boom in Flowery Branch and Braselton have turned Spout Springs into a two-lane nightmare at certain times of the day.
Here comes the new Flowery Branch High School, the county’s largest school, opening this fall close to Spout Springs Elementary and off bustling Elizabeth Lane.
"We started meeting with the state Department of Transportation officials jointly with (Hall County Commission Chairman) Tom Oliver almost two years ago with the intent of trying to fast-track the widening of Spout Springs," said Will Schofield, superintendent of the Hall County school system.
Financial woes later hit the DOT, which has been going through a statewide reprioritization of its projects. The agency also has gone through leadership changes.
"All appeared to be in place prior to the major shake-ups that have transpired since," Schofield said.
"I do not have a solid perception of where we might be with that and do not expect much information until the internal house is in better order at DOT."
Still, the school chief doesn’t expect total chaos.
"The differences in school starting times and the fact that we have traffic coming from two different roads (Spout Springs and Elizabeth Lane) onto the new campus should provide some relief upon the opening of school," Schofield said.
"We will know more after school begins."
Spout Springs residents, particularly, likely will be glad to know that some relief may be on the way.
"We are working on a design for some improvements along (the road)," Jody Woodall, civil engineer in Hall County’s public works department, wrote in an e-mail on the matter.
The county is looking at intersection improvements at Hog Mountain Road, Ivy Springs subdivision, Capitola Farm Road, Elizabeth Lane, Spout Springs Elementary and Union Circle.
A signal light, if justified through a study, will be installed at Elizabeth Lane, Woodall said.
Also being considered is a 2-foot widening on both sides of Spout Springs from Hog Mountain to the Braselton town limits.
"We are working on concept layout and design," Woodall said. "We will be putting together a preliminary cost estimate soon. We do not have a construction schedule at this time, but construction should occur relatively soon."
The county’s 1-cent sales tax program would pay for the improvements, he added.
The 2008 average daily traffic count in both directions near Ivy Springs Drive is 11,650 cars and near Williams Road, 6,910, said Srikanth Yamala, transportation planning manager for the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization.
According to the organization, traffic counts are expected to increase at those locations to 19,520 and 12,060, respectively, by 2030.
More extensive Spout Springs improvements fall in the organization’s projects targeted for 2014-2020, with an estimated cost of $49 million.
Not soon enough for many area residents. During the school year, particularly, traffic on Spout Springs backs up from Hog Mountain Road to Ivy Springs, or about a mile, and sometimes beyond.
"Traffic on Spout Springs in the morning has always been an issue," said Gina Pilcher, an area resident and parent.
She said her biggest concern is, even though Flowery Branch High and Spout Springs Elementary won’t start at the same time, "you’re going to have high school kids dropping off siblings at the elementary school, then going on to the high school."
"Just because (the schools) are so close together, it may be bad for about 30 minutes right in there where (traffic overlaps)," she said. "The one thing I was glad they did is put that extra entrance off Elizabeth Lane."
Mark Coleman, Flowery Branch’s principal, said school officials would like for parents and student drivers to enter and exit the school from Elizabeth Lane and faculty, staff and buses to enter from Spout Springs Road.
Martha Glenn, another area resident and parent, said she believes the traffic around the new school will be worse at certain times, "but I don’t think it will be an overwhelming situation."
As a parent, she is happier about her children driving on Union Circle than Cash Road to get to the high school. Before this school year, Flowery Branch High School was off Hog Mountain Road.
"I think Cash Road is a dangerous road for teenagers — or anybody, really," Glenn said.