What will happen to excess SPLOST money?
The choice: Use $29M in the bank for East Bypass, or ‘other’ projects?
In the new year, local officials will grapple with somewhat of a good problem.
The countywide transportation sales tax, enacted in 2004, is projected to have a $29 million balance that would potentially be available to pay for a significant chunk of the proposed East Fayetteville Bypass. However, that amount won’t cover the entire cost, as it is slated to get $14.1 million in federal aid and would still need another $4.9 million to complete beyond the $29 million in leftover SPLOST funds, according to county officials.
The fiscal shortfall may pale in comparison to the lack of political capital for the East Bypass. County commissioners distanced themselves early last year from the idea of supporting such a project since many of them had campaigned against a similar project in the West Fayetteville Bypass, which saw the third and final phase — additional work on the south end between Ga. Highway 54 and Redwine Road — cancelled by the current commission while it was still in the planning stages.
The proposed East Fayetteville Bypass would start on the north at Ga. Highway 85, stretching along Corinth Road until it reaches Ga. Highway 54, where new right of way would be needed to loop south and west to reach County Line Road where it would continue westward to its end at the intersection of County Line, Inman and South Jeff Davis roads.
There is a chance to reduce the cost by switching from a four-lane road to a two-lane road among other options being evaluated by county staff, officials said.
If the commission ultimately decides to dodge the East Fayetteville Bypass project, the remaining $29 million could be used on “an alternative menu of projects” from the 2003 countywide transportation plan, according to Public Works Director Phil Mallon.
County staff plans to meet with commissioners individually over the coming few months to discuss the East Bypass versus the other projects, which would encompass intersection improvements, additional turn lanes, expanded shoulders and the like, Mallon said.
“Remaining SPLOST money can only be used for projects identified in the 2003 Comprehensive Transportation Plan,” Mallon said.
So far the SPLOST has led to $53.4 million being spent on capacity, safety and maintenance projects above the $25.8 million the county has spent on road maintenance between 2006 and 2012, Mallon said.
The SPLOST has led to a number of new traffic signals including Ga. Highway 85 north of Fayetteville on Corinth Road, Ga. Highway 54 at Ebenezer Road and Ga. Highway 92 at Gingercake Road. All of these projects have improved both safety and efficiency, Mallon said, pointing also to the new light at the intersection of Hwy. 54 and Veterans Parkway.
The county was also able to use SPLOST funds to replace three bridges in the county including the underway projects on Kenwood Road and on Westbridge Road. Some of the bridges were in poor condition and were subject to weight limitations, along with failing to meet current standards for width, geometry and flood carrying capacity, Mallon explained.
The county also spent an additional $12 million in SPLOST funds to rehabilitate or resurface more than 60 miles of roads, and the sales tax also paid for the widening of Jimmie Mayfield Avenue, a valuable connector in Fayetteville linking downtown with Ga. Highway 92 South.
In addition to the SPLOST, the Georgia Department of Transportation has undertaken a number of improvements over the past six years that have had a major impact, including the widening of Ga. Highway 74 South in Peachtree City and the reconfiguration and new traffic signal for the intersection of hwy. 92 South and Hilo Road, neither of which required any county money, Mallon noted.
Another significant state project was the widening of Hwy. 54 in Peachtree City from Hwy. 74 to Fischer Road, Mallon said.
Going forward, the state is planning to widen McDonough Road between Fayetteville and Lovejoy and also Hwy. 54 east of Fayetteville into Clayton County, Mallon added.