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Plan targets transportation
Bulloch to submit regional T-SPLOST proposal
W GeorgiaDOT

List of Bulloch County projects to be considered includes, in part:

      · Widening of State Route 67 from Statesboro, near the fairgrounds, to Interstate-16.
    · Widening of Highway 80 - Starting just outside of the Statesboro city limits, continuing to Brooklet and perhaps on to the Bulloch County line.
      · Widening of Highway 301 North from bypass to Screven County - perhaps continued to the South Carolina line.
      · Completion of North Loop on Veterans Memorial Parkway, creating a complete loop around Statesboro.
      · Completion of bike routes
      · Improvements to Cawana Road

     With a Wednesday deadline approaching, lists of proposals for future, large-scale transportation projects will begin filtering into the offices of Georgia's Coastal Regional Commission - whose area includes Bulloch County.
     Representatives from the commission's 10 counties will present various project proposals to be included in a preliminary list for review by the commission and Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT).
     The transportation ventures are hoped, by the respective counties presenting them, to be included in a final list of projects which will be funded by the Transportation Investment Act of 2010. Proposals would be submitted throughout the state by region and, if approved in an August 2012 vote by region, would add a penny sales tax - T-SPLOST - devoted solely to transportation needs.
     "This bill sets up an opportunity for the 12 regions of the state to put in place a one-percent sales tax strictly for transportation," said Allen Burns, executive director of the Coastal Regional Commission. "In our region, we think it will generate about $1.8 billion that can be used for roads, airports and transportation of all types. We think this is a very good opportunity for our region to work together on something that knows no boundaries: transportation."
      The transportation act is anticipated to collect $1.8 billion over 10 years in the Coastal Region - Bryan, Bulloch, Camden, Chatham, Effingham, Glynn, Liberty, Long, McIntosh and Screven Counties - and more than $100 million in its first year, Burns said. Revenues in Bulloch County are expected to be more than $90 million during the 10-year span.
      The one cent "T-SPLOST" tax is intended by state officials to create jobs and provide improved transportation infrastructure throughout the state.
     "This is all about economic development," Burns said. "The number one question asked when dealing with an industry or business looking to locate in a community is about transportation. I think this preps us tremendously well region-wide to deal with those questions."
      "This also strongly supports some of the major assets - ports, airports and military bases - in our region," he said. "I feel there is a tremendous amount of good that can come out of this opportunity."
      According to Burns, every dollar collected in the Coastal Region will be spent only within the boundaries of its area.
      "One hundred percent of the money stays in the region, and one hundred percent of the money goes toward transportation," he said.
     The list of potential projects that Bulloch County officials would like to see come to fruition has been completed and will meet the March 30 deadline, said Statesboro City Engineer Robert Cheshire.
     According to Cheshire, the submitted list comprises four major development ideas that have been discussed for many years in Statesboro and Bulloch County.
      Cheshire said projects found on the list include: The widening of State Route 67 from Statesboro to I-16, the widening of Highway 80 toward Brooklet, the widening of Highway 301 North from Statesboro to Screven County and the completion of the Veterans Memorial Parkway, turning the roadway into a complete loop.
    "This money is significant to us because so many things have gone unfunded for the last several years and money we used to have available to us has dried up," Cheshire said. "This act provides a mechanism for us to fund projects for which we have not had enough money to carry out - major intersection improvements, sidewalks, bike lanes and construction work on city streets. This tax would help fill gaps where other funding sources have dried up."
      The final list of projects submitted for review was assembled by Cheshire and county officials, said Statesboro Mayor Joe Brannen. The selected projects were deemed the most beneficial options for the city and county, he said.
      "We wanted to look at the transportation priorities in the region that are best for economic development," Brannen said. "I hope (the public passes the T-SPLOST), to give us the funds that are needed to expand our transportation abilities in the county and city."
      The mayor serves on a regional roundtable that will ultimately determine what projects garner the bulk of T-SPLOST funds.
      After review by GDOT, in which officials ensure proposals are consistent with statewide plans, the 20-man roundtable - consisting of a mayor and county representative from each of the 10 counties - would determine the final list of projects to be undertaken throughout the region.
      The chosen projects would be paid for, in full, by 75 percent of collected funds, Burns said. The remaining 25 percent of collected moneys would be distributed to each county and used at their discretion - the discretionary funds must be used for transportation related projects, he said.
      According to Burns, the amount of money distributed to each county would be based on a formula that factors in population and the amount of miles of roadway located in a county.
      The formula, he said, would benefit Bulloch.
     "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."
     "Based on the road miles in the region, Bulloch County should fare pretty well if the act is passed," Brannen said.
     According to Burns, the list of projects will be pared down to a final group by the regional roundtable during 2011's summer months.
      Once a final list is accepted, voters will decide the bill's future, he said.
      The public would vote on the Transportation Investment Act of 2010 (Georgia D.O.T. House Bill 277) in August 2012.
Acceptance of the bill would require a simple majority of yes votes throughout the region.

     Jeff Harrison can be reached at (912) 489-9454


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