Regional road list still developing

ALBANY, Ga. -- The Southwest Georgia Regional Commission is asking for additional information on some of the projects Dougherty County officials would like to see placed on a regional transportation sales tax referendum.

Albany Interim City Manager James Taylor, who attended the meeting of the commission executive committee Thursday, said some communities in the region were also given additional time to submit their wish lists.

"They (the committee) reviewed the unconstrained list from all of the counties in the district and they gave some communities more time to submit additional information," Taylor said. "They gave them until the 30th to get any additional information in."

The commission is formulating a regional transportation improvement plan under a new law known as House Bill 277 that allows counties in a region to combine and implement a 1 percent sales tax to fund transportation projects that are included on a list that first must get voter approval from the entire region.

In addition to Dougherty, counties in the Southwest region are Baker, Calhoun, Colquitt, Decatur, Early, Lee, Grady, Miller, Mitchell, Seminole, Terrell, Thomas and Worth.

While Dougherty County had its completed list in earlier this week, the committee wanted more information on some of its proposed projects, Taylor said.

"We have some that are on the state plan that we included on there and the state didn't want any additional information because they already had it," he said. "But the regional roundtable said they wanted it, so we'll have to go back and add it, not because we were missing information, but because they wanted the additional information."

Dougherty County has submitted 11 projects -- including a $90 million plan to extend Clark Avenue over the Flint River and a $19.7 million extension of Westover Boulevard to Ledo Road -- that carry a combined price tag of $350 million.

Once the final lists are received next week, the commission will forward it to the Georgia Department of Transportation, which will scrutinize the projects to ensure they meet state criteria. Then the list of projects that are qualified is returned to the regional commission, where the steering board will meet and determine which ones will be included on the constrained list that will be on the referendum, which would be conducted in 2012.

If passed, the sales tax is expected to generate $550 million-$560 million over its 10-year existence.

The process, seen as the future of transportation infrastructure improvements in Georgia, is dependent upon counties within the regions working together.

"The citizens will get to vote on all of it," Taylor said. "If it doesn't pass regionally, it doesn't pass."