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Panel reviews regional road projects
Regions across state working with DOT, compiling a final list with costs in mind
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Roads meeting

What: Georgia Mountains district meeting concerning proposed 1 percent sales tax for transportation
When: Noon today
Where: Georgia Mountains Regional Commission, 1310 W. Ridge Road, Gainesville
Contact: 770-538-2619

A regional transportation panel gets back to work today reviewing potential road projects and seeing how they match up with revenue amounts projected by the Georgia Department of Transportation.

The group's efforts are part of a planned July 31, 2012, vote on a regional 1 percent sales tax for transportation.

Today's meeting at noon involves the executive committee of the Georgia Mountains transportation roundtable, a larger group that comprises top city and county leaders from a 13-county region, including Hall.

Todd Long, the DOT's planning director, who is overseeing the effort statewide, also is scheduled to attend today's meeting, said Stephanie Harmon, regional planner at the Georgia Mountains Regional Commission.

The committee, which had an initial meeting earlier this month, will meet at the regional commission's offices at 1310 W. Ridge Road Gainesville.

"Each member will have their priorities," said Sonny James, the committee's chairman. "We're also getting some projections as far as revenue and costs on the different projects."

"We're just going to review those and see if we can put some type of priority (on them)," added James, also chairman of the Habersham County Board of Commissioners.

Voters statewide will decide on whether to approve the additional sales tax in their respective regions, as called for in the Transportation Investment Act of 2010.

Regions across the state are working with the DOT on putting together a final list that matches project costs to projected sales tax revenues.

Final lists, once approved by each region's executive committee, go before full roundtables for approval by Oct. 15.

"Public meetings must take place before the roundtable's final approval," Harmon said. "No decision has been made as to where these meetings will be held."

Harmon and James both said it's hard to know yet how many executive committee meetings will be needed to hammer out the final draft list of projects.

"I am assuming at least two more ... will be needed," Harmon said.

If the tax is approved, 75 percent of funding will go to regional projects and 25 percent will go to local governments to spend on transportation needs as they see fit.

Long has said he believes the tax's passage is Georgia's best shot at building much-needed roads throughout Georgia. The chief funding source for transportation has long been the gas tax, which hasn't been adjusted for inflation in decades.

"Plan B probably is just to mosey on, like we're doing now, at a far reduced rate of where we are today," he said at a March 15 transportation forum at Gainesville State College.

"Imagine the funds we have today and reduce those by 20 to 25 percent over the coming years and see what you get out of the system."