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Road building started where TSPLOST OK’d – Atlanta Business Chronicle

Road building starting where TSPLOST OK’d

While metro Atlanta business leaders are still smarting from last year’s defeat of a 1-cent transportation sales tax, shovels are turning elsewhere in Georgia.

The State Transportation Board is expected to vote June 20 to spend$31.7 million to widen an 8.5-mile stretch of U.S. 27 south of Columbus from two lanes to four.

The project in rural Randolph County is the first major highway improvement in Georgia being financed by a tax approved last summer by voters in three regions of the state.

While metro Atlanta and eight other regions rejected the TSPLOST, the regions surrounding Augusta and Columbus and a rural swath of Georgia southeast of Macon supported the tax.

The state collected $43.1 million in revenue from those three regions between Jan. 1, when the tax took effect, and the end of April, according to figures posted by the Georgia Department of Transportation.

With Gov. Nathan Deal and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed serving as front men, the Metro Atlanta Chamber campaigned hard for the TSPLOST last spring and summer, billing the $8.5 billion in transportation improvements the tax was to bring as the best answer to the metro region’s chronic traffic congestion.

But the referendum fell victim to voter mistrust in government and dissatisfaction with the list of 157 highway and transit projects the tax would have funded, said former Decatur Mayor Bill Floyd, who served on the regional roundtable of elected officials that put together the project list.

Voters in some portions of the region argued their communities weren’t getting a fair share of the proposed spending, he said. Other critics maintained the list was too skewed either toward transit or, conversely, highways, he said.

“It was an incredible opportunity to put Atlanta ahead of the curve in recovering from this recession,” Floyd said.

While cynicism toward government and anti-tax sentiment helped sink the referendum throughout Georgia, the controversy created by the transit-versus-highways debate was unique to metro Atlanta.

Project lists in the rest of the state were dominated by highway improvements.

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