Officials: $153 million in sales tax to go toward regional transportation projects

A public hearing has been set in Albany for 5 p.m. Sept. 12 at the government center.

Officials say that approximately $153 million of sales tax money will be used to improve roadways, like Westover Boulevard in Albany, around Southwest Georgia.

Officials say that approximately $153 million of sales tax money will be used to improve roadways, like Westover Boulevard in Albany, around Southwest Georgia.

— More than $500 million in sales taxes are expected to be collected over the next 10 years in the Southwest Georgia region, city officials said.

The money, which will only come if approved by a majority of the voters in the 14-county region during the 2012 primary next July, will go to fund transportation improvement and safety projects over the next decade, Albany City Engineer told the city commission Tuesday.

"All of these projects are either for transportation safety or improvement," City Engineer Bruce Maples said. "That was really the focus of DARTS (the Dougherty Area Regional Transportation Study) when they submitted the projects."

The projects are being funded through a first-of-its kind initiative in Georgia called the Transportation Investment Act.

The law, which was passed by the General Assembly after projections showed that the Georgia Department of Transportation's various road and bridge improvement programs would be strained to keep up with the state's various infrastructure maintenance and improvement needs in the coming years.

TIA would largely replace the statewide programs that are currently funded through the state's tax on gasoline with regional programs whose projects are being suggested by region-wide roundtables, approved by state DOT officials and then ultimately OK'd by the voters.

To see the list, click here.

Projects in other regions of the state are prompting some elected officials to publicly criticize the program and some even calling on citizens to vote against the measure.

That kind of discord hasn't found its way into the 14-county area that comprises the Dougherty region, officials say.

Public Hearing Schedule

The Government Center,

Room 100

Albany, Ga.

5-6:30 p.m.

Monday, Sept. 12

The Southwest Georgia Regional Commission Office

Camilla, Ga.

5-6:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Sept. 13

The Firehouse Gallery

2nd Floor Conference Room

Bainbridge, Ga.

5-6:30 p.m.

Wednesday, Sept. 14

"I think the constrained list is palatable enough to have the support of the roundtable," Albany mayor and roundtable member Willie Adams said. "We're what they call a donor county, but I think there is enough incentive in it, to make sure the projects are spread around to gain support for it."

In total, $153 million is anticipated to be generated by the additional one-percent sales tax over the next 10-years in Dougherty County alone. Of that amount, $149 million will come back to Dougherty County for projects, Maples told the city commission.

"So even though we're a donor county, I think $4 million is a good investment to the region," Ward VI Commissioner Tommie Postell said.

But there were some concerns about some of the local projects on the list.

"Personally, I don't like anything that's going to help Lee County attract more businesses when we need to be growing businesses here," Ward III Commissioner Christopher Pike said, in regards to a project to expand Ledo Road and build a Westover Boulevard connector to Ledo.

The projects were culled from a list already developed by the state and through the DARTS Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Those projects ended up on an unconstrained list which was further whittled down to fit within the funding constraints and to meet state requirements.

To see the list and comment, three public hearings have been set.

The first is here in Albany in room 100 at the Government Center on Pine Avenue at 5 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 12. The second is in Camilla at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 13 at the Southwest Georgia Regional Commission. The third is at at 5 p.m., September 14, in Bainbridge at the Firehouse Gallery's 2nd Floor conference area.