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Eyes on the Road: Transportation bill still draws officials ire
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Legislators’ hopes that changes to a transportation funding bill would calm local governments’ fears about shortfalls aren’t registering this week with Hall County elected leaders.

The Gainesville-Hall County Metropolitan Planning Organization’s policy committee voted Tuesday to approve a resolution opposing the Transportation Funding Act of 2015, which is advancing in the General Assembly.

And the bill was a hot topic at the Lula and Oakwood city council meetings Monday night and is on the Gainesville City Council’s agenda Thursday morning.

“I think there’s a better way, a better legislation out there,” Lula City Manager Dennis Bergin said.

The MPO resolution says Hall County governments, including school systems, would lose $10.3 million and urges lawmakers “to strongly oppose any provision or measure to reduce allocation of sales tax funding to local governments.”

The MPO serves as the Hall area’s lead transportation planning agency.

In presenting the resolution, Gainesville Mayor Danny Dunagan noted the city spends nearly $900,000 on state route maintenance, including mowing, litter pickup and street sweeping. The amount includes personnel, equipment and traffic engineering costs.

Much of “the perception among legislators is that local governments do not spend all the money we get from transportation fuel taxes on transportation,” Dunagan said. “But ... we’ve got transportation plans just like the state does.”

The original proposal allowed cities and counties to approve up to 3 cents per gallon each in excise taxes, plus up to an additional 3 cents each by referendum. That has now been dropped from the package.

Instead, sponsoring Rep. Jay Roberts, R-Ocilla, said local boards can vote to add up to 6 cents per gallon in excise taxes on top of the state’s planned 29.2 cents per gallon. Municipal officials would have to agree to spend the money on specific transportation needs, with their share determined by a formula already in use by the Georgia Department of Transportation, Roberts said.

He said the changes will “hopefully” close the gap for some local government agencies but acknowledged there may be cities or counties receiving less under the proposal.

Road to be rebuilt in downtown Jefferson

Storey Street from Sycamore Street/Ga. 15 to Clay Drive in downtown Jefferson is set to close Saturday through most of Monday as part of a reconstruction project.

Storey Street will be removed and “rebuilt from the dirt up,” said Harold Mull, DOT district construction engineer. “The roadway is not up to standards. By closing the road around the clock, we hope to minimize impact to the community.”

Signs alerting motorists of the detour are up now, and detour route signs will go up as Storey Street is closed.

Weather permitting, the road will reopen by 11 p.m. Monday.

In the meantime, the Jefferson Civic Center can be reached by using Sycamore and Kissam streets. Motorists can reach Storey by taking Martin Street and Cooley Avenue.

The work is part of a larger $6.9 million effort to rebuild Ga. 15 Alternate at Ga. 82, create a one-way pair of parallel streets along Kissam and Storey, and build a new bridge over Big Curry Creek and multiuse trail in Big Curry Creek Park.

The existing bridge over Curry Creek was built in 1929 and does not meet current design standards.

The project’s completion date is Aug. 31, 2016.

 

Jeff Gill covers transportation issues for The Times. Share your thoughts, news tips and questions with him:

jgill@gainesvilletimes.com

facebook.com/jeffagill

@JeffGTimes

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