Liberty County Administrator Joey Brown gave an update about the Freight connector, formerly known as the Hinesville bypass, at last Thursday’s Progress through People Luncheon.
Brown said the cost for the freight connector is $26 million which he said included right-of-way, utilities and construction.
He said state and federal funds would help cover some of the costs but added the implementation of a county transportation special purpose local option sales tax (T-SPLOST) could bring in $40 million to cover expenses and allow the first phase of construction to begin.
Brown said SPLOST 5 funds paid some of the engineering plans and permitting costs for the bypass. SPLOST 6 had the remaining funds available to finish that work. However, SPLOST 6 was voted down in 2015.
“At that point we had to ask the state to shift the project back until we could find funds for the engineering,” Brown said. “When SPLOST 6 finally passed in November of 2016 we were once again able to move forward. We are scheduled now to be complete with engineering and submittals in the first part of 2019. Currently the state is showing right of way acquisition to begin in late 2019 with construction in 2022 if funding is available.”
Brown said in order to ask the state to assist with Transportation Investment Act Funds, the state must see that the local government has the ability of picking up its share of the cost to meet the right-of-way and construction schedule dates.
To offset the cost the county may place the T-SPLOST referendum on the ballot in time for the November 2019 elections.
“If T-SPLOST passes in November 2019, we will start receiving funds no later than May 2019 which would be in line with the planning as it exists now,” Brown said.
In 2012, T-SPLOST was a regional tax which only passed in three out of 12 regions. Liberty County was in a region that voted in favor of the measure. In 2015 the state allowed for single counties to implement T-SPLOST.