Transportation sales tax projects OK'd

Ball in voters' court July 2012 for 10-year regional levy

A list of transportation projects for a proposed 10-year regional 1 percent sales tax was approved unanimously Thursday by government officials from 10 different counties.

Fayette County Commission Chairman Herb Frady joined the unanimous vote, while Mayor Ken Steele was absent at an out of town conference for the Georgia Municipal Association conference.

While the unanimous approval of the list is a milestone, the biggest hurdle lies in July 2012 when voters in the region will weigh in. Already, a group of metro Atlanta mayors has said they will oppose the vote because nearly half of the projected $6 billion take will be spent on transit projects such as rail and bus routes.

There are no transit projects on the list for Fayette County, a direct reflection of the strong opposition transit faces among local voters, even as some residents have begun to voice some support for transit options.

The vote on the sales tax will be calculated by lumping the votes from all 10 counties together, which leaves the possibility that Fayette County may be forced to assess the tax even if it is voted down by local voters.

Because the legislature chose to conduct the vote on an aggregate basis instead of a county-by-county survey, Fayette County has little clout because of its much smaller population compared to the rest of metro Atlanta.

On the flip side, Fayette is projected to pay some $190 million over the life of the tax but would get back some $187 million back in road projects and additional funds for local transportation projects in Fayette County alone.

That tally does not count an additional $11.25 million factored in with a like amount of anticipated federal funding for a reworking of the interchange of Interstate 85 and Ga. Highway 74 which is located outside Fayette County in Fairburn. That area is a significant choke point for commuters in the morning and afternoon rush hours.

Other Fayette County projects that made the final list include:
• Both segments of the East Fayetteville Bypass, a combination of new and existing road that will reach from Ga. Highway 85 north at Corinth Road to Ga. Highway 54 east of Fayetteville and then southward toward a terminus at the intersection of County Line Road, Inman Road and South Jeff Davis Road;
• The extension of MacDuff Parkway from its current terminus to Ga. Highway 74 via north Kedron Drive;
• Widening of Ga. Highway 85 south from Grady Avenue to Bernhard Road and “operational improvements” on Hwy. 85 from Bernhard Road south to Ga. Highway 74;
• Two projects to add new cart paths in Peachtree City extending from the new Flat Creek bridge. One of the paths will head north and link with several industrial buildings before reaching Crosstown Road. The other will use a tunnel being built under the widened Hwy. 74 south to reach the city’s Baseball and Soccer Complex, going northward from there on the west side of the highway all the way up to Dividend Drive.
• Widening of Ga. Highway 92 from Jimmie Mayfield Boulevard southward to McBride Road in unincorporated Fayette County;
• A newly-proposed “connector” between Hwy. 92 and Ga. Highway 138 north to link Fulton and Fayette counties; and
• Operational improvements on Hwy. 92 northward from Hwy. 85 in Fayetteville to Oakley Industrial Boulevard in south Fulton County.

Regionwide the tax is projected to pull in more than $6 billion in revenue over its 10-year lifespan.

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