TSPLOST vote July 31: Coweta has 21 proposed transportation projects
By SARAH FAY CAMPBELL
(Editor’s Note: This is the first package of articles in a two-day series looking at the pros and cons of the TSPLOST proposal to be voted on in July. Today we look at what the tax would fund in Coweta and the views of the local business community. Coming Sunday is a look at those opposing the tax and some of their concerns.)
Coweta County has 21 projects on the Three Rivers region’s project list for the proposed Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax. Those projects are projected to be built with $167,545,694 in regional sales tax dollars.
Other issues on the July ballot will be Sunday alcohol sales in unincorporated Coweta and three contested local governmental office races in the Republican primary.
Absentee ballots will be available starting June 16 and early voting starts July 9. The voter registration deadline is July 2.
The TSPLOST would apply to most purchases, including groceries. It would not apply to purchases of gasoline, though.
The TSPLOST is also known as the TIA, for the law that created it, the Transportation Investment Act of 2010.
The projects on Coweta’s list, as well as the lists for the other nine counties in Three Rivers across the south metro Atlanta area, will take up 75 percent of the sales tax proceeds.
The other 25 percent will be distributed to the counties and their municipalities, as discretionary funding. The discretionary money can be used for any transportation related purpose.
Coweta’s share of the discretionary money is estimated to be $3,326,660 in the first year.
For some of the projects on the list, Coweta has requested enough TSPLOST money to build the entire project. For other projects, the county’s TSPLOST request is for less than the total cost of the project. Some of those projects have already been “programmed” by the Georgia Department of Transportation, meaning that some state or federal funding is expected.
At least two of the projects already have funding identified through Coweta’s Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.
Funding for the new Interstate 85 interchange at Poplar Road was included in Coweta’s SPLOST that was approved by voters in March. However, only $15 million for the interchange was included in the Coweta SPLOST. The TSPLOST request is for $25 million. The total cost of the project is estimated at $33.8 million. The DOT has committed to covering half of the construction cost.
Coweta had originally requested the full $33.8 million from the TSPLOST but lowered the request because of the DOT commitment, and to use the money for other projects.
If the TSPLOST is approved, the Coweta SPLOST money allocated for the interchange can be shifted to other needed transportation projects.
The intersection improvements at U.S. 29, Highway 16 and Pine Road south of Newnan near the Moreland exit of Interstate 85 were included in the project list for the 2006 Coweta SPLOST.
Because of the recession, sales tax collections for the 2006 SPLOST were below predictions, and some projects on the list weren’t able to be funded. If the TSPLOST is approved, some of the 2006 SPLOST money can be used for projects that had to be cut.
The TSPLOST request for the Pine/29/16 intersection is just $1 million, though the projected project cost is $4.5 million. The $1 million in Coweta’s expected portion; the state/federal money for the rest of the project is already committed, according to Wayne Kennedy, Coweta’s director of development and engineering.
Coweta’s 2013 SPLOST sets aside $34.8 million for “rehab and paving” and $4.58 million for intersections.
If the TSPLOST is defeated, the county’s SPLOST categories are probably flexible enough that some of the TSPLOST projects could be funded with the Coweta SPLOST, said Coweta County Administrator Theron Gay. However, Gay said because there are so many needed projects already on the SPLOST priority list, he doubts local SPLOST dollars would be used on any of the unfunded TSPLOST projects.
The Three Rivers Regional Commission has several documents regarding the TIA/TSPLOST on its website. Check at http://threeriversrc.com/Downloads/tabid/556/Default.aspx for more information.