Monday, June 14, 2010

Movement on 316?

If you drive 316, you understand the irony in this entry's headline.

However, after years of inactivity on improving Highway 316 -- the four lane, at-grade access road connecting Athens to I-85 in Gwinnett County -- some momentum may be building.

Today, the Georgia Bioscience Joint Development Authority -- a four county partnership between Gwinnett, Barrow, Oconee and Athens-Clarke -- announced it had received a $50,000 planning grant to help plan the future of the road (members of the GBJDA board are pictured at left on a tour of a site in Alabama). Their press release follows.

The creation of a nearly 900 person strong Facebook group seeking to turn the road into a limited access highway in the wake of another tragic death on the road is also refocusing public pressure on politicians to improve the road.

And they are hearing it. Hank Huckaby, arguably the front runner for House Seat 113, has mentioned improving 316 in several campaign appearances. His predecessor, Rep. Bob Smith, fought efforts to turn the road into a toll road, but did support creating a tax allocation district along the road to help fund improvements (the idea never took off).

It is great to see movement on this issue. A limited access University Parkway is critical to our region -- the current at-grade crossings are unsafe and encourage retail and residential development, not the high quality commercial and industrial buildings our region needs. In my opinion, a limited toll option should not be off the table if we want to get this done, but this may be a political non-starter. Time will tell.

The reality is that Gwinnett has the resources and political horsepower to upgrade all of its intersections over time. The other counties on the corridor have much less in the way of resources and influence with the GDOT and in Washington (despite the fact that Athens can claim three natives currently serving in Congress!). For now, our options are limited, but by working together over time the road can be improved.

Politics aside, this is a great show of regional cooperation, which will be a must to get this road improved. My old friend E.H. Culpepper is no doubt smiling down on the GBJDA!

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FOUR COUNTY JOINT DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY
AWARDED FEDERAL GRANT TO STUDY 316 CORRIDOR

(Lawrenceville, Ga., June 11, 2010) – The U.S. Economic Development Administration has awarded the Georgia Bioscience Joint Development Authority (GBJDA) a $50,000 short-term planning matching grant to conduct an economic development study that will assist in the creation and implementation of a vision, strategic plan, and short term and long term goals for the development of the 316 Corridor.

“The short-term planning grant from EDA will allow us to conduct an economic development study of the 316 Corridor to determine what resources we currently have available and how best to utilize them to create high-paying jobs for Gwinnett, Barrow, Oconee, and Athens-Clarke counties. The 55 mile Corridor is important to not only the northeast Innovation Crescent technology area, but to the state. We have the potential to develop as a significant logistics corridor linking a network that can provide world class support of life sciences and technology based research, information, and manufacturing,” said Charles Bannister, Chairman of the Georgia Bioscience Joint Development Authority and the Gwinnett County Board of Commissioners.” “The study is critical in creating a plan and process for setting development priorities and policy initiatives.”

As stated in the grant request prepared by Will Hearn of Site Dynamics, the objective of the study will be to record the best information on the 316 region and in particular the four counties that make up the Authority in order to understand the economic environment, compare the economic characteristics to other similar markets, and to develop a work plan that engages all parties resulting in technology-based economic development strategies.

A Request for Proposal will be distributed to potential study firms in late June. Study completion is targeted for fall 2010.

The twelve-member Georgia Bioscience Joint Development Authority includes the four counties of Athens-Clarke, Barrow, Gwinnett, and Oconee. The purpose of the Authority is to develop and promote trade, commerce, industry and employment opportunities for the 316 Corridor.

Description of photo attachment:
June 3, 2010 colleagues of the GBJDA participated in a familiarization visit to the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology located in the Cumming Technology Park in Huntsville, AL.
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