GAINESVILLE – “I think that’s going to be a good improvement; maybe our phones won’t light up like Christmas trees.”
Those were the words of Gainesville Mayor Danny Dunagan following an explanation by City Manager Bryan Lackey about the city’s traffic strategy for the upcoming Christmas shopping season and the “Nightmare on Dawsonville Highway” that developed nearly a year ago along that busy corridor.
Lackey gave a brief presentation of the multi-agency strategy at Tuesday’s meeting of the Gainesville City Council.
Dunagan and other city council members said they were inundated with calls from concerned - make that irate - citizens about the gridlock that became an everyday occurrence on Dawsonville Highway between Pearl Nix Parkway and Ahaluna Drive.
They want to avoid repeating that festal disaster.
“We’ve been telling you all year long since last holiday season that we’re working on improving our ITS (Intelligent Transportation System) system, especially on Dawsonville Highway, so I want to give you a quick update…of what we’re prepared to do,” Lackey told council members.
Lackey said the ITS, “…will be functional those days after the Thanksgiving holiday. It’s in testing mode right now; so far everything looks great.”
He added that the Georgia Department of Transportation will, “…assist us in re-timing all those signals from Washington to Ahaluna, for special holiday timing for that weekend and perhaps a few days beyond that.”
“Along with that we’ll have some ‘boots on the ground’,” Lackey said. “GDOT’s going to have some representatives in town, those three days over that weekend, to monitor the situation and help us adjust it.”
Lackey said the city’s Public Works Department will also be actively involved in controlling traffic flow. “Both in the field and from our traffic control center, working those TV screens, working in conjunction with each other to make that technology solution work.”
“We’re also going to have message boards along the corridor advising our drivers to not block the intersections.” Lackey said that was singularly the biggest cause of gridlock and congestion last year.
“Last year that was the main problem: they blocked intersections.”
And to help assure that drivers comply with the message boards, “We’re also going to have some of Gainesville’s finest (police officers) on the corridor to remind people that they don’t need to block intersections.”
In addition, Lackey said the city would be working with the various cellphone traffic apps, providing them with updated traffic information. “To make sure…they’re giving people the quickest routes, not the shortest routes.”
(NOTE: Operating a motor vehicle while using a cellphone to access app data is a violation of state law, so be sure to assign the job of checking traffic apps to a passenger in your vehicle.)
“So we’re going to have both a technology solution and a personnel solution in place,” Lackey said.
COUNCILMAN HINTS SKATE BOARD PARK COMING
Gwen Ingram of Murrayville asked council members about plans for a skate board park, something the city and Hall County have considered in the past.
“There’s no safe and legal place for skate boarders,” Ingram said. “We have to drive at least two-hours round-trip to the closest skate park. We have 22 parks with over 644-acres, but no skate parks.”
“Skate boarding is now an Olympic sport and will premiere in the next Olympics, and we know Gainesville loves to be a part of the Olympics,” she added.
“Please consider skating a future part of Gainesville’s youth,” Ingram ended.
At that point Councilman Sam Couvillon told Ingram, “I’m careful not to make any firm promises, but I can tell you I’m on the Parks and Rec board, and that is a topic that is discussed, and I would say that your wishes will be granted.”
Ingram was noticeably encouraged and told Couvillon, “I have some contacts with the Tony Hawk (professional skate boarder) Foundation…and they’re willing to help in any way possible.”