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WARBINGTON: Gwinnett recognizes mobility as critical to county's future

Over the past several decades, Gwinnett County exploded with growth and consequently suffered from many of the growing pains associated with rapid expansion. But leaders within the county have answered the call time after time, and in recent years they have received well-deserved recognition as the leader in metro Atlanta, and arguably in Georgia, for investing in state-of-the-art water and sewer infrastructure, ensuring a positive economic future for Gwinnett's residents and businesses for years to come.

As we transition into the next stage of development in Gwinnett, leaders have recognized mobility as a critical piece of our economic future and are now turning their focus to transportation infrastructure with innovative ideas and policies that will provide positive economic development/redevelopment through mobility initiatives.

Some current initiatives include:

* Regional commercial air travel through privatization of Briscoe Field. Gwinnett has recently secured, through the Federal Aviation Administration, one of the last two slots in the nation for privatization of its airport. Officials in Gwinnett have embarked on a study to determine the fiscal feasibility and community impact of regional air travel out of its current facility.

Although the results of the study are pending, one can argue that even just having the foresight to study privatizing a government function is what continues to set Gwinnett apart from the region for economic development.

* Interstate 85 corridor light rail. Through the leadership of the Community Improvement Districts, Gwinnett developed a vision and concept for transit alternatives along the Interstate 85 corridor that would connect Gwinnett to Midtown, Buckhead, Perimeter Center, and the Cobb-Galleria employment centers. This transportation solution, as outlined in the county's 2030 policy guide approved by the Board of Commissioners last year, is critical to the redevelopment and economic vitality of the southern part of the county. This light rail system would spur live-work-play development patterns, capturing the young professionals that are critical to the future of Gwinnett.

* Diverging diamond for interchanges along I-85. Through partnerships with its CIDs, Gwinnett is exploring a low-cost alternative to relieve congestion at interstate interchanges without replacing the bridge structure. This new concept will provide traffic congestion relief at a fraction of the cost to these critical I-85 bridge crossings in the heart of the county. With construction expected to begin in 2011, Gwinnett is leading the way as the first in Georgia to have this type of transportation solution implemented.

* Public/private partnership for Ronald Reagan Parkway extension. As the state and other counties have discussed how to tap into private funding for transportation, Gwinnett set out again as the first in Georgia to embark on a public/private partnership for the extension of Ronald Reagan Parkway to I-85. Although in the early stages of conceptual design and public input, this innovative funding method taps into private dollars that are essential to linking this underutilized parkway into our interstate system.

These are just a few of the transportation initiatives being explored and implemented in Gwinnett. Some of these initiatives will be a part of the regional transportation SPLOST set for a vote in 2012, while many more will be explored over the next year.

Gwinnett's elected leadership -- city and county -- Community Improvement Districts and Chamber of Commerce are continuing to set the pace for visionary leadership in the region with the foresight to provide innovative solutions to mobility. Building upon our motto in Gwinnett "Success Live Here," leaders in Gwinnett have made the connection that mobility and economic development go hand in hand.

Chuck Warbington is executive director of the Gwinnett Village Community Improvement District. E-mail him at chuck@gwinnettvillage.com.