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TSPLOST promises transportation improvements

4 major projects slated for Bulloch County

TSPLOST promises transportation improvements

TSPLOST promises transportation improvements

    New bike and pedestrian trails, additional lanes for the area’s busiest corridors and more paved roads in rural parts of the county will be at stake when Bulloch County voters decide at the polls whether to support a 1-percent sales tax investing in transportation throughout the region.
    Local voters will join others in a 10-county area in deciding to approve or deny a first-of-its-kind transportation tax, commonly known as TSPLOST, in Georgia — a state that, according to the Georgia Transportation Alliance, spends less per capita on transportation than almost every other in the union.
    State officials project the new tax could collect approximately $1.6 billion in revenue for the Coastal Region over the next 10 years, to be used for a variety of transportation-related projects. The region consists of Bryan, Bulloch, Camden, Chatham, Effingham, Glynn, Liberty, Long, McIntosh and Screven counties.
    A simple majority (more than 50 percent) of votes is required pass the referendum.
    Georgia leaders say the goal of TSPLOST is to invest directly in transportation infrastructure to connect communities, reduce congestion and improve road safety, while generating new jobs and more than $2 billion in direct and indirect economic activity.
    Funds raised through the 1 percent sales tax would be reserved entirely for the region in which money was collected and be distributed in two ways.
    Seventy-five percent would pay for regional projects already approved by a regional roundtable, comprising county and city leaders from each of the 10 counties, and the Georgia Department of Transportation.
    Four projects have been slated for Bulloch County — totaling more than $150 million — if the tax is approved.
    The big-ticket projects include: installing bike and pedestrian paths and related traffic measures along U.S. Highway 301 between Tillman Road and Veterans Memorial Parkway ($1,050,000), widening Georgia Highway 67 to four lanes from Veterans Memorial Parkway to Interstate 16 ($42,938,982), constructing a north portion of the Veterans Memorial Bypass ($32,209,014), and improving and widening Highway 301 to four lanes from Statesboro to six miles south of Sylvania ($77,211,992).
    Statesboro and Bulloch County leaders believe the projects, which they say will require the new funding source if they are to be completed in the near future, will promote traffic to and through the area, and future commerce.
    “In March, our board resolved to support TSPLOST passage, and there are a number of reasons that led the chamber to do that,” said Phyllis Thompson, the president of the Statesboro-Bulloch Chamber of Commerce. “We do believe that it will enable our community to remain competitive in quality and integrity of roads. It would also contribute to job creation as projects are being built.”
    “(TSPLOST) would result in improved connectivity for rural communities,” she said. “In Bulloch County, we have hub status in retail, education, health care, professional services, arts and entertainment. We want people to be able to get to us. We want people being able to come into our community. The business community believes the benefits of this tax outweigh the costs.”
    Another 25 percent of funds would be returned to the region for local projects determined by city and county officials. Cities and counties will receive extra funds in proportion to their population and the number of road miles within their jurisdiction.
    Bulloch County could receive approximately $79 million over a 10-year span per the distribution method, according to Allen Burns, the executive director of the Georgia Coastal Regional Commission — second only to Chatham County.
    “Bulloch County has a lot of roads. The county is one of the winners in the formula,” Burns said. “The act will be very beneficial for the Bulloch County area.”
    County leaders say some additional funds could be used to pave several rural, still-unpaved roadways.
    Though the new measure would provide much needed monies for local governments, many people and area leaders oppose implementing an additional tax.
    Members of the Savannah Tea Party hosted an anti-TSPLOST rally in Savannah last week, and three of four Republican candidates vying to challenge Democratic Congressman John Barrow to represent Georgia’s 12th Congressional District have spoken out against the tax.
    Candidates Rick Allen, Wright McLeod and Maria Sheffield expressed opposition to the tax when questioned about the issue in recent political forums.
    The political hopefuls say they do not support any new tax.
    Republican candidate Lee Anderson said he believes TSPLOST is a fair way to address the immediate need of investing in the state’s transportation infrastructure.

    Jeff Harrison may be reached at (912) 489-9454.

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