It’s called the TSPLOST, an awkward name for an important decision that people in Liberty County need to make. On July 31, citizens across Georgia will vote on proposals to invest in our transportation system and improvements on our roads, highways and bridges.
The proposal calls for a 1 percent increase on our sales tax, a funding mechanism that spreads the burden and will provide about $19 billion statewide over the next 10 years. This boost would supplement the fuel taxes we’ve paid for decades but are no longer sufficient to maintain the system. Overall, Liberty County will receive about $101 million for local improvements.
For nearly a year city and county officials in each of the state’s 12 regions put together lists of important improvements. The Georgia DOT coordinated the overlapping requests. Here’s what so important to remember about the process:
• Local officials and citizens, those most knowledgeable about local needs, put together the lists.
• Funds for those projects will be raised and spent entirely within the districts. The first 75 percent will fund regional projects. The other 25 percent will be given to the region’s towns and counties to spend on hometown transportation improvements of their own choosing.
• Local citizens will continue to be involved in each region to make sure that the projects are undertaken as planned and are on time and on budget. These “Citizens Accountability Committees” add yet another level of local involvement and control to the process.
Our region serves 10 counties and 35 cities. The counties include Bryan, Bulloch, Camden, Chatham, Effingham, Glynn, Liberty, Long, McIntosh and Screven — a total land area of more than 5,110 square miles. The project list total is approximately $1.6 billion.
Plan call for bridge replacement, interchange upgrades and highway widening. Also in the works is support for Chatham Area Transit operations, upgrades to airports around the region, improvements to railroad overpasses and even bike and pedestrian paths. The list is long and ambitious, and includes:
• Hinesville bypass, from S.R. 196 to U.S. 84
• Flemington Loop, from U.S. 84 to Fort Stewart Road 47
• Barrington Ferry and US 17 safety improvements
• Expanded Liberty Transit System
• 15th Street widening (from EG Miles Parkway to Fort Stewart boundary)
• MidCoast Regional Airport runway extension
• S.R. 119 and U.S. 17 intersection safety improvements
• S.R. 119 and E.B. Cooper Highway improvements
• U.S. 84 access and safety improvements
Another important benefit is that the projects will add jobs and help local businesses. The Federal Highway Administration estimates that every $1 billion spent of transportation supports about 28,000 jobs (some existing, many new) and generates an additional $2 billion is economic activity. That’s a lot of jobs and a lot of new business, benefits we will share throughout Coastal Georgia.
We are the third-fastest growing state, but we’re 49th in transportation spending per capita. Only Tennessee spends less. From Colonial times on, Georgia’s progress has been linked to transportation — first the Port of Savannah, then the railroads and international airports. To keep pace in a competitive world, we need to maintain and improve transportation assets. That’s why a “yes” vote on July 31 is a wise vote for Coastal Georgia.