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Panel finishes cutting roads projects
Draft outlines area road work
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Hall road projects

Here’s a list of projects that have been recommended so far for the 2012 statewide vote on a 1 percent, 10-year sales tax for transportation:

  • Widening Browns Bridge Road from Forsyth County to Ga. 53/McEver Road
  • New Interstate 985 interchange north of Ga. 13/Atlanta Highway and near Martin Road
  • Jesse Jewell Parkway and John Morrow Parkway intersection improvements
  • Improvements to Martin Road from Atlanta Highway to Ga. 53/Winder Highway
  • Sardis Road Connector, a road linking Ga. 60/Thompson Bridge Road to Sardis Road near Chestatee Road
  • Widening Spout Springs Road from Hog Mountain Road to Gwinnett County
  • Widening U.S. 129/Athens Highway from Gillsville Highway to the Pendergrass Bypass
  • Widening U.S. 129/Cleveland Highway from Nopone Road to White County
  • Widening Cleveland Highway from Limestone Parkway to Nopone Road

A group of Georgia Mountains elected officials has produced a recommended road projects list for next summer’s statewide vote on the 1 percent, 10-year sales tax for transportation.

The committee started Tuesday’s meeting with $500 million it needed to cut and ended four hours later with $6 million to spare, after subtracting $10 million in project management costs.

“We’ve accomplished everything we’ve intended to do,” said Sonny James, chairman of the Habersham County Board of Commissioners and chairman of the six-member transportation panel.

The list now goes to a 26-member roundtable made up of top city and county leaders from throughout the 13-county Georgia Mountains Regional Commission.

The roundtable has until Oct. 15 to give its final OK to the projects list and is empowered to change anything on the smaller committee’s approved list.

“You’ve got two months to convince them to say yes,” said Todd Long, the Georgia Department of Transportation planning director, at Tuesday’s meeting.

The roundtable is set to meet 5-7 p.m. Aug. 24 at the Ruby Albright Aquatic Center in Clarkesville.

The committee also agreed to hold public hearings in Hall, Forsyth, Stephens and White counties. The Hall hearing is set for Sept. 13 in Gainesville.

Hall County ended up with nearly $300 million in projects but had to make more than $150 million in cuts going into the meeting at the commission offices in Gainesville.

Gainesville Mayor Ruth Bruner announced the cuts after conferring with Srikanth Yamala, transportation planning manager for the Gainesville-Hall Metropolitan Planning Organization.

The chief cuts were widening Ga. 211/Old Winder Highway from Ga. 53/Winder Highway to Gwinnett County, widening Winder Highway from Old Winder Highway to Jackson County and widening Ga. 60/Thompson Bridge Road from Ga. 136/ Price Road to Lumpkin County.

State. Rep. Carl Rogers, R-Gainesville, expressed surprise at the Winder Highway and Old Winder Highway projects, which are in southeast Hall.

“There are a lot of votes down there, Ruth,” he said.

Also, Hall County axed $4.65 million in Hall County paratransit operations and nearly $19 million for passing lanes on Ga. 52/Lula Road one mile north of Ga. 365 to Julian Wiley Road.

Hall’s list still contains some much-touted projects, including the Sardis Road Connector in northwest Hall and the widening of Spout Springs Road in South Hall.

“I think we came out well,” Bruner said after the meeting. “We dropped some projects that we would have liked to have, but I think we ended up in good shape.”

Through the process, other counties have sacrificed projects.

At the last meeting on July 19, Forsyth took the painful step of erasing some $328 million in improvements on the highly traveled Ga. 20. On Tuesday, White County cut the $10 million third phase of the long-awaited Cleveland Bypass.

Committee members, as they deliberated cuts, tried to balance high-dollar projects with ones craved by residents.

“We’re not assured to get this (sales tax) passed,” said Cumming Mayor Ford Gravitt. “We’ve got to put the roads where the votes are.”

In the summer of 2012, voters in 12 regions statewide will decide whether to approve the tax for transportation and transit projects. The plan moves forward if a majority of voters — 50 percent plus one — in a particular region vote yes.

The state’s Transportation Investment Act of 2010 calls for 75 percent of proceeds going to regional projects and 25 percent going to local governments to use as they see fit.

Under that formula, about $950 million would go toward regional projects in the Georgia Mountains while about $300 million would go to local governments.

If the roundtable is unable to approve a project list by Oct. 15, a “special district gridlock” will be declared, according to DOT.

That means another referendum for a transportation sales tax can’t be held for at least two more years.

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