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Study recommending $300 million in road projects OK'd. What could lie ahead?
02182021 TRAFFIC 2.jpg
A traffic study of a growing area between New Holland and the planned inland port in northeast Hall is finished and shows the need for a ton of road improvements. One of the many recommendations in the report is widening Jesse Jewell Parkway to six lanes at I-985. - photo by Scott Rogers

Updated March 9 at 4 p.m.: The Policy Committee approved the study Tuesday, March. 9.

Moving forward, local governments can make improvements or the state could identify “new funding sources to fund certain projects,” said Joseph Boyd, the MPO’s transportation planning director.

Larger projects could be moved into long-range plans “at the request of local jurisdictions as funding becomes available within the plan,” Boyd said.

Previous article: Fixing future road congestion between downtown Gainesville and the planned inland port in northeast Hall County could cost about $300 million, according to a study presented at a Hall area transportation planning meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 17.

study of potential traffic through 2050 suggests fixes through intersection improvements and numerous road projects, such as widening Jesse Jewell Parkway to six lanes at Interstate 985. One of the biggest projects would be widening Limestone Parkway to six lanes, estimated at $35 million.

“We didn’t want to leave … a laundry list of things to do,” said Eric Lusher of Pond, a consulting firm that did the study of the study’s intentions. “We wanted to give some context to how important we thought these different initiatives were, especially as some of them aren’t really needed right now. But we do have reason to believe they will be needed in coming years.”

The study has been in the works for a couple of years, requested by Gainesville officials seeing the rapid growth particularly in the New Holland area. 

Also, the inland port, a regional cargo terminal off White Sulphur Road and Ga. 365, is expected to generate tons of truck traffic. Another growth spot is Lanier Technical College, which opened a sprawling campus off Ga. 365 in 2019.

Traffic study recommendations

Here’s a few of the more high-dollar projects suggested in the Ga. 365/Jesse Jewell Parkway Traffic Impact Study:

  • Widening Limestone Parkway to six lanes: $35 million

  • Widening Athens Highway to six lanes: $30.2 million

  • Oconee Circle extension: $28.6 million

  • Improving White Sulphur Road to Beverly Road: $26.5 million

  • New interchange at Ga. 365/Howard Road: $14 million

“There’s been some great things happening up the Ga. 365 corridor … and we really feel a traffic impact study for this area would be very beneficial and forward-thinking,” said Chris Rotalsky, Gainesville’s public works director, in 2019.

The study also covers the tip of Interstate 985, with widening Athens Highway/U.S. 129 to six lanes as one suggested project. U.S. 129, a popular truck route, is four lanes between I-985 and Gillsville Highway and is being widened to four lanes between Gillsville Highway and Talmo.

Pond’s report specifically says that, in addition to fixes to intersections throughout the area, “broader improvements should be considered to maintain and improve mobility in the area around the Jesse Jewell Parkway corridor.”

And that a “no-build” option isn’t particularly an option.

“Due to high growth, several signals and unsignalized approaches are expected to experience poor levels of service by year 2050,” the report says.

The study was recommended for approval Wednesday by the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization’s Technical Coordinating Committee, a group of engineers, planners and other city and county officials. The MPO is Hall’s lead transportation planning agency.

The study goes now to the Policy Committee, made up of top elected officials in the area, for final approval. The committee is set to meet March 9.

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