Friday February 12th, 2016 2:46AM

Transportation focus group looks at solutions

By Jerry Gunn Reporter
GAINESVILLE - Gainesville's Transportation focus group looked at short term, low cost traffic solutions during their meeting Thursday night at the Fair Street Neighborhood Center.

Group consultant Pond and Company Engineering of Norcross presented long term, potentially costly project recommendations they said needed to be in place to handle Gainesville's projected 163,000 population by the year 2040, but group member Stan Appleton suggested 'doing things we can do'.

"There are other things that can happen quicker," Appleton said. "Something that can happen quicker is no left turns on Green Street. There are some issues with that but they can be resolved. I know we can't do it tomorrow because we have to get the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) to agree to some of those plans but it could be done."

Appleton said another way to reduce and control heavy traffic is work with Gainesville's larger businesses, the Medical Center, and county and city government to promote car pooling to reduce the number of vehicles in town.

"We could even have some satellite parking lots where people could park and be bussed into their jobs," Appleton added. "That takes the traffic off the street."

Another approach would be to direct traffic to other destinations by erecting direction signs on I-985.

"They would read 'exit this exit if you're going to Dawsonville' rather than bringing all that traffic through the middle of Gainesville," Appleton said.

Another group member, Jerry Castleberry, Gainesville School System Transportation Director, said it would take leadership from elected officials to make the changes that are not going to please everybody and everyone is going to have to sacrifice. Castleberry pointed to a Pond Engineering proposal to widen Martin Luther King Drive but what about widening Dixon Drive, he asked.

"When we talk about 160,000 people in 2040, the time to start is now," Castleberry said. "We need to show some movement now and we can't wait until 2040 to start it."

Castleberry said an improvement that could be done quickly is a third lane on West Academy Street.

"You see a lot of traffic that's going south on E.E. Butler in both lanes and it's just holding the traffic up that wants to get to West Academy; I think a third lane is a great idea and it's something that could be done immediately."

Using display boards showing study recommendations and large table sized aerial maps, Pond showed improvement recommendations for key areas that would be impacted by the increased traffic brought by the increased population. Those areas include the Green Street and MLK corridors, downtown Gainesville, and McEver Road at Dawsonville Highway.

Pond Consulting Team Project Manager Richard Fangmann said intersection improvements identified by his study and already identified by the city and the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce could make a difference.

"Some of them would require additional lanes to provide left and right turn lanes, but others would require less work to get done," Fangmann said. "One that is a particular bottleneck is MLK Boulevard at E.E. Butler intersection. There are some things that could be done there."

Recommendations on Gainesville area transportation improvements go before the public in a community meeting next Thursday at 5:30 at the Gainesville Civic Center in the Sidney Lanier Room. The meeting will be an open house format with no set presentation with plenty of displays and consultants to explain the recommendations.
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