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Road projects list to get cut down again
Officials say $500M in cuts needed
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Roads meeting

What: Georgia Mountains regional meet to discuss proposed 1 percent sales tax for transportation
When: Noon Tuesday
Where: Georgia Mountains Regional Commission, 1310 W. Ridge Road, Gainesville
Contact: 770-538-2619

What big Hall County road projects will get cut?

At this point, the county has about $478 million in projects proposed for the Georgia Mountains region’s 1 percent sales tax for transportation, a funding question that goes before voters next summer.

But with 13 counties, including the equally large but more rapidly growing Forsyth County, vying for $950 million in projected regional sales tax money over 10 years, Hall County — as well as Forsyth — are each looking to trim away up bunches of dollars.

Officials have estimated Hall and Forsyth would need to each cut about $150 million in projects.

In all, the counties have about $500 million more to cut, with government officials from throughout the region set to meet at noon Tuesday at the Georgia Mountains Regional Commission, 1310 W. Ridge Road, Gainesville, for just that task.

The six-member panel has until Aug. 15 to finish the work.

The project list then goes to the Georgia Mountains transportation roundtable, a larger body of government officials that was used to create the executive committee. The roundtable has until Oct. 15 to give its OK. Public hearings will take place before then, officials have said.

Hall County initially submitted 23 projects with an estimated project cost, based on 2011 dollars, of $945 million.

Later cuts brought Hall’s list down to 14 projects, removing, among others, the widening of Ga. 347/Lanier Islands Parkway from McEver Road to Lake Lanier Islands, widening of McEver Road from Lanier Islands Parkway to Ga. 53/Mundy Mill Road, McEver Road intersection improvements and converting intersections on Ga. 365 to limited-access interchanges.

The most expensive projects still on Hall’s list include widening Browns Bridge Road from Forsyth County to McEver Road, widening Ga. 53/Winder Highway from Ga. 211/Old Winder Highway to Jackson County, and widening Ga. 60/Thompson Bridge Road from Ga. 136/ Price Road to Lumpkin County.

Those projects combined are estimated to cost nearly $221 million.

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.

“There is something going to be said about this,” said Todd Long, the Georgia Department of Transportation planning director, at the time.

“You’re taking off the most regionally significant project in your neck of the woods. The problem is it costs a fortune. You just can’t afford to do that long stretch of road.”

In the summer of 2012, voters in 12 regions statewide will decide whether to approve a 1 percent 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, 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.

Also, governments in the region will have to match the state’s Local Maintenance and Improvement Grants by half, according to the DOT.