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Transportation plan projects $2B in revenue for county
Plan does not factor in sales tax vote
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Road projects

A draft list of Hall County projects for 2012-17:

  • Widening of Ga. 347/Friendship Road from Interstate 985 to Ga. 211/Old Winder Highway
  • Widening of Ga. 347/Friendship Road from Interstate 985 to McEver Road
  • Widening of U.S. 129/Athens Highway from Ga. 323/Gillsville Highway to Ga. 332/Pendergrass Bypass in Jackson County
  • New I-985 interchange north of Ga. 13/Atlanta Highway near Martin Road
  • Construction of road connecting Ga. 60/Thompson Bridge Road to Sardis/Chestatee Road
  • New alignment involving Ga. 211 from Ga. 53/Winder Highway to Ga. 347
  • Bridge work on Ga. 52 at Candler Creek, U.S. 129/Cleveland Highway at the Chattahoochee River, U.S. 129 at East Fork Little River and Ga. 284/Clarks Bridge Road at the Chattahoochee River
  • Construction of the Central Hall Recreation and Multi-use Trail
  • Traffic signal upgrades on Ga. 11, Ga. 13, Ga. 53 and Ga. 60
  • Oakwood and Hall County diesel retrofit projects

Source: Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization

Hall County is developing a transportation plan that projects $2 billion in revenues through 2040, not factoring in a potential transportation sales tax vote next year.

"Over the next few weeks, we hope to finalize the expenditures and revenues for this plan," said Jeff Carroll of Wilbur Smith Associates, a South Carolina firm working on the plan.

He gave an update Wednesday on the effort to the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization's Technical Coordinating Committee, meeting at the Development Services Center in Gainesville.

The MPO is operating with the 2030 Long-Range Transportation Plan, which was adopted in August 2007, and is taking steps to complete a 2040 plan by August.

Federal requirements state that all metropolitan areas with more than 50,000 residents, such as Gainesville-Hall, develop and maintain such a plan.

A public hearing, the second one related to the plan, is set for 5:30 p.m. March 8 at the Georgia Mountains Center.

At Wednesday's meeting, officials also released a draft list of projects in the 2040 plan. Srikanth Yamala, transportation planning manager for the MPO, said he hopes dollar amounts will be tagged to specific projects by the public meeting.

The list features many of the same projects in the 2030 plan, which had projected $1.4 billion in revenues over 25 years.

Hall County is projected to grow at a rapid clip through 2040, when the population is expected to top 560,000.

Habte Kassa, a planning engineer with the Georgia Department of Transportation in Atlanta, talked about those numbers and presented several charts showing Hall's dire situation — mainly in terms of gridlock — if no improvements are made between now and then.

Carroll referred to the charts, with red marks showing trouble spots, in addressing the $2 billion in revenue — or some $1.5 billion from federal and state sources and nearly $500,000 locally.

"There is hope that obviously we can address that through some very sizable transportation projects," he said.

Yamala pointed out the plan's estimated dollars for roads don't include the state's proposed sales tax vote. In a separate matter, transportation "roundtables" throughout Georgia — including one in the Georgia Mountains district — are working on project lists to be considered as part of August 2012 referendums.

"If it passes, it can be another nice story," he said. "(The traffic situation) can still be red, but it can be rosy red."

Carroll added, "The feds require that any funding that you look at has to be reasonably assumed. We can use the Hall (special purpose local option sales tax) in the future because there's a track record of that passing.

"With this (state tax) being a new referendum, we can't assume that within this plan. If it does pass for this region, it can certainly supplement the unmet needs we have for this region."

Yamala said the MPO needs to submit a project list to the Atlanta Regional Commission by April 4. Hall is part of the ARC's 20-county nonattainment area concerning air quality standards.

"I am not anticipating any major changes at this time in terms of what we have as projects," he said, referring to the list, "because ... we have been talking for years and years (about the projects)."

If anything, projects in the 2030 plan are getting pushed back.

For example, Ga. 13/Atlanta Highway widening was in the 2030 plan and now is in the proposed tier of 2031-40 projects.

"The primary issue is, obviously, funding, or lack of it," Yamala said.

For proposed 2012-17 projects, "we need to have some real funding at the table, even if it's just for preliminary engineering," he added.

One of Hall's next big projects is the widening of Friendship Road, which is split into two phases: McEver Road to Interstate 985 and I-985 to Ga. 211/Old Winder Highway. The project is in right-of-way acquisition but could reach construction later this year, officials have said.

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