Times change and people change. Counties change too.
By Dave Emanuel
For several years during the 1980s, Gwinnett County was either the fastest growing county in the nation, or one of the top 10 counties for population growth.
That has changed. According to the US Census Bureau, in 2015, Gwinnett County didn’t even make the top 100 list. The number 100 entry on that list is Douglas County, Colorado which grew at a rate of 2.4%; Gwinnett county’s growth rate was 2.1%.
Lost in the percentage ratings is the actual population increase. Whereas Douglas County, Colorado added 7,537 residents, Gwinnett County’s population increased by 18,097, bringing total population to 895,823. As the county approaches a population of one million, it doesn’t take a very high growth percentage to add a significant number of residents. Although Gwinnett County isn’t seeing the percentage of growth it did in the past, during the 2014-2015 time period, its population increased (number of residents) more than any other county in Georgia. In fact, if rated on the increase in the number, as opposed to percentage, of residents, Gwinnett would be the 10th fastest growing county in the nation.
A significant change, compared to the growth of the past, is that population growth during the 1980s was largely a result of people moving to suburban/exurban areas; 21st century growth is largely a result of the county’s economic activity. Companies relocating to Gwinnett County create job opportunities, as do educational facilities like Georgia Gwinnett College. Both fuel population growth by appealing to a comparatively young demographic group that is seeking opportunity, as well as a place to live.
Irrespective of its origin, population growth is a double-edged sword; it typically improves economic development opportunities which results in more jobs and increases business activity, but it also increases traffic. And while residents of Gwinnett universally have legitimate complaints about traffic, people in other
areas of the state wish they had the traffic problems that are attendant to economic growth.
Considering the advantages of living in Gwinnett County, future growth is all but assured. And at some point, viable alternatives to traveling in personal vehicles will be developed. To that end, the Gwinnett Department of Transportation has developed a Comprehensive Transportation Plan (CTP) to, “serve as a roadmap for how a community would like their transportation network to develop to serve their current and future needs”.
Current needs are handled by an extensive network of roads, sidewalks and attendant facilities. The county operates or maintains 2,500 centerline miles of roads, 180 bridges and bridge culverts, 20,000 traffic control signs, 700 traffic signals, 2,000 miles of sidewalks, 225 closed circuit cameras, 225 miles of fiber optic cable and 200 traffic control flasher/beacon locations.
The CTP is intended to determine the best means of expanding the current network and adding new options to meet future needs. Part of that plan is a series of six public meetings. The two remaining meetings are scheduled for April 18th in Dacula and April 21st in Lawrenceville. Each meeting includes a formal presentation followed by interactive sessions.
The Gwinnett Department of Transportation is also encouraging residents to take a short survey regarding
their transportation priorities. You can find the survey, along with details about meeting times and locations at; https://www.gwinnettcounty.com/portal/gwinnett/Departments/Transportation/ComprehensiveTransportationPlangwinnett/Departments/Transportation/ComprehensiveTransportationPlan
Obviously converting transportation plans into realities requires money which brings up the subject of SPLOST (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax). The SPLOST programs approved by voters in 2009 and 2014 have funded over $650 million dollars in capital improvements (building new roads and bridges and
repaving/repairing existing ones). As a result, Gwinnett County roads are generally much more “tire friendly” than those in other counties.
Given the population of Gwinnett County, traffic will continue to be a challenge in the future, However, the county Department of Transportation is focused on finding solutions that will keep traffic flowing as efficiently as possible. And what’s most encouraging is that they are asking for private citizens to participate in the process of finding the best ways to keep the counting moving.
Dave Emanuel is Vice President of Random Technologies, a manufacturing company in Loganville, and a Snellville City Councilman. To read more from Dave Emanuel visit http://www.cuttothe-chase.net