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Traffic study may be ahead for Gainesville
MPO wants to create plan for growth in city
Traffic fills Green Street on a recent afternoon. A traffic study of Gainesville may get under way in the next few months. - photo by Tom Reed

A long-range study of Gainesville traffic could get under way later this year.

"Over the last five to six years, we have been looking at several options all over Hall County, but we haven't been specifically looking at Gainesville, in terms of how to move traffic," said Srikanth Yamala, transportation planning manager for the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization.

The MPO is looking at working with Mayor Danny Dunagan and city staff "to come up with a game plan to look at some consulting services over the next few months and ... kick-starting a transportation study within the next fiscal year."

Gainesville and Hall County begin their fiscal year on July 1.

Yamala, speaking to the MPO's Technical Coordinating Committee recently, said he hopes to have firmer plans by April.

He noted that of Hall County's nine proposed projects in the transportation sales tax vote on July 31, only one involves Gainesville proper — $2.5 million for improvements at Jesse Jewell and John Morrow parkways — over the tax's 10-year life.

If the tax is approved, the Gainesville project would be one of the earliest done, however, with completion set for between 2013 and 2015.

The tax is estimated to generate some $1.25 billion in the 13-county Georgia Mountains district, with Hall receiving about $300 million for road projects.

Gainesville is a major hub for Northeast Georgia, with hospital- and business-related traffic streaming through the downtown area every day.

Traffic jams along major corridors, such as Green Street and Jesse Jewell and E.E. Butler parkways, are common, especially at lunchtime and rush hour.

The city "wants to go back to a clean slate and look at all options that are available," Yamala said.

The MPO has some money it could use for the study, "which could take anywhere from eight to 10 months (to complete)," he said.

"Obviously, the public will be kept informed throughout the whole process."

Dunagan said he believes the city "needs to start working on alleviating or rerouting some of our traffic during the day, as we continue to grow.

"We've got to start making some plans because, as it stands now, we have no real traffic plans ... in Gainesville. As we grow, we've got to get something growing."

He said he realizes that the studies and carrying out traffic-easing solutions are "very time-consuming and very expensive, but we've got to start planning for the future."

"... We're already behind and we need to try to get halfway caught up."

The last time the MPO contributed to such a study was when Flowery Branch completed one in 2010. The study cost $30,000, with $10,000 from the South Hall city and $20,000 from the MPO.

The study showed that the city would have to spend millions to correct and improve road and transportation issues. One of that city's main issues is that motorists have to dogleg through downtown streets to travel between two major arteries, Ga. 13/Atlanta Highway and McEver Road.