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Sen. Steve Gooch says $200M in state's fund can boost transportation
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State Sen. Steve Gooch, R-Dahlonega, said he believes there’s about $200 million squirreled away in the state’s general fund that can help boost transportation.

Transportation funding is expected to be a top issue when the General Assembly reconvenes Monday, as the federal source for highway funding is expected to dry up again early this year.

Out of the 7 percent sales tax generally levied on gas in Georgia, 4 percent goes to the state and 3 percent to local governments. From the 4 percent, 3 percent goes to the Georgia Department of Transportation, but “the fourth penny has been going to the general fund,” Gooch said.

“My No. 1 goal this year is to find that fourth penny and get it out of the budget,” he said. “We need to move it back to where it belongs and that’s with the DOT.”

Gooch said he had heard about the “fourth penny” and “never thought much about it until the last two years, when we’ve been (discussing) how to restore some funding for DOT.

“The (state) Constitution clearly says that all taxes derived from the sale of motor fuel has to be put on transportation ... so I think that, before we answer anything from anybody else, we have to go there first.”

Gooch served as co-chairman of the Joint Study Committee on Critical Transportation Infrastructure Funding, which released a 23-page report Dec. 30 suggesting funding options for lawmakers to consider in the upcoming session.

Options include a 1-cent statewide sales tax that would generate some $1.4 billion per year; increasing Georgia’s motor fuel tax, which has not been increased since 1971; and establishing an annual road usage fee for alternative fuel vehicles.

“I think this (issue) is going to require a whole lot of debate and discussion among the House and Senate (members) and the governor to decide where and when we bite the bullet,” Gooch said.

The committee’s report says the state will have to cover a $1 billion to $1.5 billion annual transportation funding gap to stay economically competitive.

Detour set for today through Jan. 27 on Ga. 347 project

A detour is set to start at 9 a.m. today on Ga. 347/Friendship Road in Braselton.

About 500 feet of Dunbar Road will be closed so the road’s grade can be raised to meet the grade of the new Ga. 347.

The closure could last until Jan. 27. However, depending on the weather, the roadway could open sooner.

A signed detour will be in place.

Meanwhile, the speed limit on Ga. 347 from Interstate 985 to Spout Springs Road is 35 mph because of construction and frequent traffic shifts, District Engineer Brent Cook said.

The contract for construction of the 8-mile project is $38.4 million. The completion date for the entire project is Jan. 12, 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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