By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great local journalism.
Fixes possible, but widening may be on back burner for Browns Bridge Road

GAINESVILLE — Straightening Hwy. 369/Browns Bridge Road’s curves in Hall County may happen sooner than widening the corridor from two lanes to four, a project that’s been kicked around for years by government officials.

Top area elected officials making up the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization’s decision-making policy committee voted recently to add “operational” improvements to Browns Bridge Road, including straightening curves and adding turn lanes, to a long-range transportation plan that’s under development.

The MPO is the Hall area’s lead transportation planning agency.

The operational fixes would be included in the “mid-range” part of the 2015-40 roads plan, or 2021-30, and would at least make the road “a little less treacherous to travel,” Gainesville Mayor Danny Dunagan said.

Before the vote, the only improvement projects planned on the road were an $82 million widening from McEver Road to the Forsyth County line sometime between 2031 and 2040 and the 2015-2020 $16 million replacement of Browns Bridge at the Chattahoochee River.

Those are still in play. In adding the operational fixes, officials must first determine an estimated overall cost for the work, then how to squeeze it into the financially constrained plan.

“There’s some [surplus] money on the table [to address] any last-minute changes,” said Srikanth Yamala, MPO director. “I think we can come up with the money.”

The Hall area is expected to receive some $1.4 billion in revenue through 2040 from local, state and federal sources.

The estimated cost of projects in the plan can’t exceed that amount. Another $2.42 billion in projects have been left off the list and have been dubbed as “aspirations.”

Ideally, officials would like to see Hwy. 369 widened between McEver Road and Ga. 400 in Forsyth County, but that project appears unlikely any time soon.

The project has lost standing because Hwy. 369’s widening through Forsyth County, which falls in another MPO, the Atlanta Regional Commission, is not a priority.

Matthew Fowler, a Georgia Department of Transportation assistant planning administrator, has said, “When we widen a road, we have to have logical termini. We just can’t stop it arbitrarily.

“The logical [stopping point] 40 years ago might have been the bridge at the lake, but nowadays, it has to go farther than that ... at least to Ga. 400.”

However, “the beauty of the federal [funding] process is it will look at what does that operational project do toward requiring other improvements,” he said. “If it requires more lanes, then you have to go back and add more lanes.”

Officials have said they expect the long-range plan to be updated by August.