Transportation projects cost money, a lot of money. But if you have the money, a lot can get done.
That was the message presented state a local officials Tuesday in Evans, for an update on projects being funded by the Transportation Investment Act, a special penny sales tax that was approved by voters in three state Department of Transporation multi-county regions -- Central Savannah River Area, River Valley and Heart of Georgia - Altamaha.
Since tax money bagen rolling in starting in January 2013, more than $352 million has been collected for 871 projects across the three regions. The TIA funds have been allocated to about 84 projects in the CSRA region, with the majority of those being in Richmond and Columbia counties.
State DOT board member Don Grantham the Transportation Investment Act is directly responsible to the surge in road projects residents are seeing and will continue to see while the penny tax rolls in.
He said when his joined the DOT board about 5 years ago, there was not funding to speak of at the state of national level. Now that the TIA is approaching the end of its first “band” of projects, people across the state are seeing how effective it is.
“The TIA has beeen one of the most envied programs throughout the state of Georgia, in what we have accomplished,” Grantham said.
In Columbia and Richmond counties alone, more than $106 million in TIA funding has been earmarked for Band 1 projects, including $20 million for the River Watch Parkway Extension in Evans and another $20 million for the Berckmans Road realignment in Augusta.
Other projects that have been launshed or are about to be launched before Dec. 31 include widening Wrightsboro and Windsor Spring Roads, repairing and replacing several bridges in downtown Augusta and widening Robinson Avenue in the city of Grovetown.
Both counties have a slate of projects for the next two funding bands that officials have in the planning stages.
Matt Schlachter, director of Engineering Services for Columbia County, said planning work was already underway for projects that are still years away, including a complete redesign of the interchange at Lewiston Road and Intersate 20 near Grovetown.
Although a majority of residents in some counties, including Columbia County, did not vote in favor of the tax, enough voters approved it in the 13-county region to implement it across the CSRA.
“This is not something we necessarily agreed with in the beginning,” Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross said. “We would liked to have had a single county or dual county approach, but the regional approach saved Columbia County.”
Cross said the next eight years of projects funded by TIA money will advance the transporation plan for the county by about 15 years.
“We would not be able to raise property taxes to do this kind of thing,” he said.
Grantham said everyone who sees a sign identifying a project funded by the TIA money can take some pride in that they helped pay for it.
“We all benefit from it because we are all paying that penny,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you passed it or not it matters whether you are paying or not. If you pay you are going to see good results.”