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The Road Ahead: Franklin County airport fix is unique among regions projects
From left, Franklin County engineer John Phillips, Carnesville City Manager Billy Morse and Carnesvile Mayor Harris Little talk about possible improvements to the Franklin County Airport that could be financed by the transportation tax. - photo by Tom Reed


Each day through July 1, we’re visiting the 13 counties in the Georgia Mountains region to plot the roadways and intersections targeted for improvements. Here’s a look at what’s ahead:

Friday: Habersham County

Saturday: Hart County

Sunday: Hall County

Monday: Lumpkin County

Tuesday: Rabun County

June 27: Stephens County

June 28: Towns County

June 29: Union County

June 30: White County

July 1: What would an extra penny of tax mean to the average family?

Nearly $11 million would come Franklin County’s way, including money for the Georgia Mountains region’s lone airport project, if voters approve a 1 percent sales tax for transportation on July 31.

And while, at $389,495 in 2011 dollars, the Franklin-Hart Airport improvement isn’t the biggest-dollar item for Franklin, the project is a key piece of what the county would receive if the tax is approved.

“It’s a safety project, to make sure that people can move on the airport without having to be on the runway,” said Carnesville Mayor Harris Little, also a member of the Regional Transportation Roundtable that voted to put a slate of regional projects on the ballot.

“Currently, we just have taxiway turnarounds at either end.”

Airport improvements consist of building a parallel taxiway, as well as relocating a beacon tower and building a new beacon tower.

Overall, the project is expected to cost nearly $1.6 million, with the balance of funding coming from the Federal Aviation Administration and the Franklin-Hart Airport Authority.

Officials also hope the improvements will boost the area’s economy.

“This is a smaller airport, so a lot of the (planes) that come in are pleasure aircraft, but that’s good for tourism because we’re right next to Lake Hartwell,” Little said. “And also, it’s good for corporate aircraft.”

Franklin would use the lion’s share of its money, or $6 million, for “operational improvements” on Ga. 17 between Interstate 85 and Ga. 327, or between Lavonia and Royston.

The project’s “design will determine which intersections will get what improvements, but additions like turn lanes, signal installation, straightening curves and flattening out hills are typical of operational improvements,” said Teri Pope, the Georgia Department of Transportation’s Hall County spokeswoman.

“There’s about 11 miles that would be looked at being four lanes on that stretch,” county engineer John Phillips said.

“And that’s the major north-south corridor through Franklin County,” Little said.

Ga. 17 travels across I-85 into Stephens County, where other improvements are planned or are on the list for potential sales-tax projects. Also, the road supports the sparkling new Ty Cobb Regional Medical Center.

Franklin and Stephens, as well as Hall and 10 other counties, are in the 13-county Georgia Mountains region.

“We’re all working together to try to see that the improvements to Ga. 17 come about, including the counties (south of) us that aren’t in our region,” Franklin County Manager Billy Morse said.

Another Ga. 17 project that’s planned would help fix the Ga. 281 junction in Royston. Three other roads come into the crossing, making for a little confusion for motorists, especially at rush hour.

“It will be reconstructed into a four-leg intersection, with roads meeting at a 90-degree angle or (as a) roundabout, which will be decided during design,” Pope said.

“Either way, (the project) would improve sight distance greatly,” she added.

Manny Mays, manager of Burnin Desire Tattoo at 523 Church St., Royston, near the intersection, said that most of the traffic in that area flies along Ga. 17, but that problems generally aren’t all that bad.

“It’s really a small town,” Mays said. “We don’t have a huge traffic problem.”

However, widening Ga. 17 between Lavonia and Royston would be helpful, he said.

“There is a lot of traffic (that would be helped by) putting in a passing lane or an extra lane,” Mays said.