A project to replace the bridge at Winder Highway and Dacula Road may get another shot at inclusion on the TSPLOST project list.
Earlier this year, city and county officials were asked to submit a “wish list” of transportation projects to be funded with a proposed 1 percent transportation special purpose local option sales tax or TSPLOST. In March, –- a list that originally included 73 projects.
Those projects, combined with projects from the 10-county Atlanta metro region, were vetted by the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT). with about 30 Gwinnett projects struck from the list.
Among those eliminated were several projects requested by the City of Dacula. The city including replacing/widening the Dacula Road Bridge at Highway 29, widening Harbins Road to four lanes, extending Sugarloaf Parkway from Highway 316 to State Route 20 and building a Winder Highway bike trail from Dacula to Athens. Only one of Dacula's projects, the $301 million Sugarloaf Parkway extension, made the unconstrained list.
Now, according to Dacula Mayor Jimmy Wilbanks, at least part of the Dacula Road bridge project may be placed back under consideration.
Earlier today, the Atlanta Regional Transportation Roundtable received a draft “constrained” list of projects. The proposed constrained list is the result of whittling the $22.9 billion, 446 project unconstrained list to a list that can be funded with the estimated revenue the TSPLOST is expected to generate for regional projects.
by state economist Kenneth Heaghney show the Atlanta metro region could receive as much as $8.4 billion in tax proceeds for transportation. In the worst-case scenario, the metro area would only take in $6.8 billion. Of those funds, 85 percent would be allocated for regional transportation projects. The remaining 15 percent would be sent to local governments to fund local projects.
Roundtable officials have been working to prioritize projects in order to compile a list likely to be approved by the voters when the TSPLOST referendum is held in July of next year.
The draft constrained list contains 217 projects, down from the original 446, with an estimated cost of $12.2 billion –- double the amount the final project list must cost.
With the goal of trimming projected spending by half, officials are asking city leaders to provide input by July 13 on the remaining projects. The 217 projects left on the list include six aviation projects costing $28 million, 15 bike/pedestrian projects costing $138 million, 165 road projects costing $6.6 billion ($5.6 billion new capacity, $1 billion preservation) and 31 transit projects costing $5.5 billion ($4.3 billion expansion, $1.1 billion maintenance and modernization, $0.1 billion other related infrastructure).
Wilbanks said the city has been asked to choose 10 projects from the regional list that are of the highest priority.
“The idea is to think about this as a regional kind of thing,” Wilbanks said.
Noting the Dacula Road/Winder Highway bridge project was not on the unconstrained list or draft constrained list, Wilbanks said he has been promised the project will be restored to the unconstrained list although not in its original form. The original $14 million project included widening the bridge.
“The bridge is on the county’s traffic improvement list and has been for about 10 years,” Wilbanks said. The road widening has not and will not be added to the unconstrained list. The bridge project in combination with proposed intersection improvements is expected to cost $10 million.
“I doubt seriously that the bridge over the CSX railroad at Winder Highway is going to be on the constrained list when we get through with all this,” he added.
Though the bridge project is unlikely to make the constrained list, Wilbanks is still working to provide as much input as possible to Roundtable members.
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The Roundtable Executive Committee must finish work on the constrained list of TSPLOST projects by August 15. The full Roundtable will then have until October 15 to finalize the list, which will then be submitted to the state legislature before going before the voters next year.
Wilbanks expressed concern that voters are not being fully informed of all the issues surrounding the TSPLOST vote -- especially concerning the amount of state funding that will be cut in regions that do not pass the tax.
H.B. 277, the Transportation Investment Act, contains penalties for regions that fail to adopt the TSPLOST. If a region adopts the TSPLOST, local governments will only be required to pay 10 percent in matching funds for projects receiving funding from the Georgia Department of Transportation. If the region holds a referendum, but fails to pass the TSPLOST, local governments will be required to post 30 percent in matching funds. If the Roundtable fails to reach an agreement on the constrained list and fails to hold the referendum, local governments in the Atlanta region would be required to pay 50 percent in matching funds for state aided transportation projects.