0

Dougherty gets glimpse of transportation list

Traffic moves along Clark Avenue in Albany on Monday afternoon. Clark Avenue is among the possible projects Albany and Dougherty County officials will send to the Georgia Department of Transportation.

Traffic moves along Clark Avenue in Albany on Monday afternoon. Clark Avenue is among the possible projects Albany and Dougherty County officials will send to the Georgia Department of Transportation.

ALBANY -- The Dougherty County Commission got its first look at what transportation officials have termed an "unconstrained project list" of possible projects the city and county officials plan to send to the regional commission Wednesday.

The list is one of many preliminary steps that, if followed correctly, will lead to a regional public referendum on whether a band of 14 counties in Southwest Georgia should be allowed to levy and collect a 1 percent sales tax to fund transportation projects for the next 10 years.

The list presented to the commission Monday contains 11 separate projects at a total cost of $350 million.

The projects include a wide range of work, from $15.7 million in improvements to the interchange of North Jefferson Street and the Liberty Expressway to a $19.7 million extension of Westover Boulevard to Ledo Road in Lee County.

The priciest measure on the list is a staggering $90 million project to extend and widen Clark Avenue over the Flint River.

The list is far from final and will be one of many submitted from the 14-county region in which Dougherty is situated.

The first-of-its-kind regional initiative is based on House Bill 277 and is viewed as the future of how local and state governments will fund community transportation needs.

According to City Engineer Bruce Maples and Albany Transit official David Hamilton, the unconstrained list will be sent Wednesday to the Southwest Georgia Regional Commission, where it will be proofed for formatting only before being sent to the Georgia Department of Transportation, along with the unconstrained lists from the 13 other counties in the region for consideration.

At some point between now and June or July, GDOT will return the unconstrained lists and charge the roundtable -- the leadership group of the 14 county conglomerate -- with compiling a constrained list.

That whittled-down document must be put together by October in order for the process to move forward for a public vote in 2012.

If voters in a majority of the cities and counties in each region approve the initiative, the sales tax will be levied for the next 10 years and is projected to generate $550 million to $560 million in revenues for the region to use on the projects, Maples said.

Up to 75 percent of the revenues collected will be used to directly fund projects on the list. A 25 percent set-aside of the remaining revenues, referred to by the bill as discretionary funds, has been developed that will be awarded to cities and counties within each region, based on a formula that uses population and road mileage.

Using that calculation, the city of Albany and Dougherty County would receive roughly 12 percent of the 25 percent chunk remaining to fund local projects that may end up being cut from the constrained list. The remaining 88 percent of that 25 percent chunk will be dispersed among the other 13 counties, based on their respective populations and road mileage.