Angling for $16.8 million in federal cash, the Hall County Board of Commissioners is weighing whether to drop $4.2 million in special purpose local option sales tax funding on right of way for the Sardis Road Connector.
Since 2009, Congress has given out more than $5 billion for freight and passenger transportation projects through the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program. This year, the U.S. Department of Transportation has $500 million available for transportation work nationwide.
Hall County is trying to get a slice for the Sardis Connector to divert truck and commercial traffic away from downtown Gainesville and Green Street, but the grant requires a 20 percent match of the total project cost for right of way acquisition, or about $4.2 million.
The connector project would widen 3.55 miles of Sardis Road beginning at Ga. 53/Dawsonville Highway and realign it to connect with Ga. 60 to create a four-lane divided highway west of Gainesville.
The county is planning on using money from the Spout Springs Road widening project for the match. Both the Spout Springs and Sardis Road projects belong to the Georgia Department of Transportation, but Hall County is responsible for buying up rights of way ahead of construction, according to Hall County Public Works Director Ken Rearden.
The county is using special purpose local option sales tax revenue to pay for the Spout Springs rights of way, and GDOT then reimburses the county for its costs, said Finance Director Zachary Propes on Monday.
“We can put those dollars back to work in the road category, so that’s what we’ll use at some point down the road for this match if we’re awarded the grant,” Propes said.
GDOT would pay for the cost of construction, and with both construction and right of way the project is expected to cost more than $50 million, Rearden said.
There’s no existing money to pay for rights of way for the Sardis project, according to Rearden, meaning Hall County voters would have to approve another round of SPLOST or find some other way to pay for the project without grant funding.
Rights of way have to be secured before 2022, when GDOT is scheduled to begin construction of the project. Construction will last about two years.
A roundabout was opened last week at the intersection of Sardis and Ledan roads in hopes of helping traffic flow until the connector can be built.
The application for the grant is due in mid-October, and Propes said it will take about six to nine months for it to be graded by the federal DOT.
The Hall County Board of Commissioners is on track to approve the grant application at its voting meeting Thursday.
Hall County has a huge amount of competition for grant funding through the national program targeted at unconventional transportation projects — including ports and rail networks, which often have trouble securing federal funding — that meet federal priorities.
The average TIGER grant is about $12.1 million. Roughly between 30 and 50 grants are awarded each year.