I attended the transportation sales tax (TSPLOST) meeting last night at the Douglas County courthouse. About 60 people attended with about half of that being suit and tie top guns of the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC).
Noticeably absent from the meeting were the Douglas County legislative delegation who’s responsible for the Transportation Investment Act, HB-277. The TSPLSOT vote is planned for July 20012. The TSPLOST is estimated to extract over $6 billion from taxpayers over ten years.
The “public forum” was very controlled by the ARC and required citizens to fill out and submit a question card to be read by a moderator. The public was never encouraged to speak up or ask additional questions during the meeting.
The questions were posed to four panelist that included ARC External Affairs Manager Kathryn Lawler, the Georgia Department of Transportation’s Matthew Fowler, Douglasville Planning Director Michelle Wright, and Douglas County Department of Transportation Director Randy Hulsey.
Douglas County Chairman Tom Worthan and Douglasville Mayor Mickey Thompson opened the meeting with a few comments. While Worthan presented a rather positive intro to the TSPLOST forum, it was clear Mayor Thompson was less than pleased with the proposed project list and said he was not here to support or oppose the tax plan. The mayor went on to explain and criticize many of the projects.
Based on the Q&A and some direct question after the meeting, here is what I learned about the projects being proposed for Douglas County.
Revenue: The 10 year tax is estimated to generate over $206 million in sales tax in Douglas County. The proposed Douglas County projects are estimated at $176 million. This means Douglas County will be a donor county for other regional projects.
I tried to get an explanation concerning the alleged 15% local discretionary revenue. The officials could not give a logical explanation as to how the 15% of the tax would be calculated. Neither Chairman Worthan nor Randy Husley could offer any specific examples of local paving projects. No local projects list is available for review by voters.
Bonds: It was asked if revenue bonds will be issued to fund the $6.5 billion project list. Kathryn Lawler said it has not been determined if bonds will be issued with the TSPLOST and a decision will be forthcoming.
- Project: $19,000,000 – I‐20 West from I‐285 West to SR 5 ‐ ITS and Western Regional Traffic Control Center Roadway West Subregion
This project was described as “technology”. A representative of GDOT said this project would install navigation cameras along I-20 from I-285 west to Hwy. 5 in Douglasville.
- Project: $ 49,000,000 – SR 92 from Fairburn Road to Dallas Highway ‐ Phases I, II and III Realignment Roadway West Subregion Douglas
This is the Hwy. 92 project that Douglasville has been involved in for years. Mayor Thompson said at the meeting and it was later clarified that this project had already bee funded by GDOT. Apparently the money that had previously committed by the state will be pulled and replaced with the TSPLSOT money if passed. This was obviously one of the issued why Mayor Thompson seemed irked.
- Project: $18,900,000 – Lee Road / South Sweetwater Road from I‐20 West to US
78 (Bankhead Highway) ‐ Widening Roadway West Subregion Douglas
This project would widen Lee Rd. / South Sweetwater to connect to Hwy. 78 at the crossroads in Lithia Springs.
- Project: $20.000.000 – US 78 (Veterans Memorial Highway) from SR 6
(Thornton Road) to Sweetwater Road ‐ Widening Roadway West Subregion Douglas
This proposal would widen Hwy. 78 from Thornton Rd. to South Sweetwater (Dependable Tire Co.). According to past plans, the widening would wipe out most of Lithia Springs’ retail stores and would require acquiring additional land. Businesses to be effected would be 78 Body Shop, Regions Bank, First Baptist Church parking lot, Dependable Tire and other retail shops along Bankhead Hwy and the railroad.
The expansion of Hwy 78 would encourage truck traffic from Thornton Rd. to take Hwy 78 west to Lee Rd and I-20 west. Hwy 78 would bottleneck from 4 lanes back to two at South Sweetwater. The plan does not widen Hwy 78 west through downtown Lithia Springs.
- Project: $ 650,000 –Dorris Road Multiuse Path Phase 1 ‐ Transportation Center
to Prestley Mill Road Bike/Ped West Subregion Douglas and;
- Project: $ 2,210,000 –Dorris Road Multiuse Path Phase 2 ‐ Prestley Mill Road
from I‐20 West to Slater Mill Road Bike/Ped West Subregion Douglas
These two projects will add bike and pedestrian paths in 2 phases.
And last but certainly not least –
- Project: $43,000,000 – SR 6 (Thornton Road) from Paulding County Line
to Riverside Parkway ‐ Truck Friendly Lanes, ITS, Intersection Improvements and Partial Widening Roadway West Subregion Douglas
This proposal would add truck lanes on Thornton Rd. from the Fulton County line north to the Paulding County line.