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This key part of Highlands to Islands trail is about to be under construction
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Construction could start this fall to connect the Highlands to Islands trail near Georgia Department of Labor office to University of North Georgia's Gainesville campus. - photo by Scott Rogers

Construction could begin this fall tying a pedestrian/bicycling trail at a long-finished pedestrian tunnel under Atlanta Highway/Ga. 13 to the University of North Georgia’s Gainesville campus in South Hall.

Completion of the trail section at Landrum Education Drive is expected in 2022, said Joseph Boyd, transportation planning director for Hall County’s lead transportation planning agency, the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization.

The connection will be a key piece of Hall’s Highlands to Islands trail, helping to bridge Gainesville to South Hall in what is a planned, overall 54-mile system between Gainesville and Braselton.

“The network is evolving all the time,” Boyd said in a presentation at an MPO meeting Wednesday, Oct. 20.

The trail system, being funded largely by Hall’s special purpose local option sales tax, has been in development for years. A completed piece extends north of the tunnel near the Georgia Department of Labor office off Ga. 13 to Palmour Drive near Lee Gilmer Memorial Airport in Gainesville.

Gainesville has been working to connect the trail at Palmour to the Midland Greenway, a multi-use pathway that follows the north-south route of an abandoned historic railroad line.

“We do not have a time estimate yet on the Gainesville Airport Connector trail,” Boyd said after Wednesday’s meeting. “Design work will take until sometime in 2022. I think the hope is to start construction not long after design work is completed.”

The trail will travel in chunks through South Hall, with a path being built now as part of the Spout Springs Road widening from Hog Mountain Road to Union Circle. A second phase of the widening between Union Circle and Braselton — about to enter right of way acquisition — would extend the path to Braselton.

A key link in the South Hall trail would be along Hog Mountain Road, where a four-way stop was recently installed as a traffic measure until a roundabout is built.

A trail spur between Hog Mountain Road and downtown Flowery Branch hit a snag this year as the Georgia Department of Transportation decided not to widen Interstate 985 in South Hall. Shelving the widening halted planned improvements under the I-985 overpass that would have enabled a wider bicycle/pedestrian path.

Pedestrians would still be able to use the sidewalk under the bridge, but cyclists “would probably have to dismount to safely cross, since there is not enough space for them to safely ride,” Boyd has said.

As for any other potential trail connections between Hog Mountain Road and Flowery Branch, “we really aren’t sure,” he said.

However, Boyd added, “none of these segments are super close to construction, so we’ve got time to figure it out.”


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.Construction could start this fall to connect the Highlands to Islands trail near Georgia Department of Labor office to University of North Georgia's Gainesville campus.
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A jogger uses the Highlands to Islands trail Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021, in Gainesville. Construction could start this fall to connect trail near Georgia Department of Labor office to University of North Georgia's Gainesville campus. - photo by Scott Rogers
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