Athens voters give TSPLOST a green light

Athens voters on Tuesday embraced a referendum to create a special sales tax to fund area transportation projects.

 

More than 13,300 voters cast a ballot on the referendum with 9,485 signing up to go on the TSPLOST ride and 3,482 telling the referendum to hit the road, according to results provided by Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections.

“It’s a terrific result and something great for the community,” said Mark Ralston, president of the nonprofit Firefly Trail Inc., which advocated for the trail’s inclusion on the TSPLOST referendum. “I’m thrilled. It’s a great project along with many other great projects I’m happy the citizens of Athens chose to support.”

Despite the nearly 3-to-1 victory margin for the TSPLOST, Athens-Clarke Mayor Nancy Denson said she felt unsure about the outcome prior to Tuesday.

Denson said she didn’t hear much talk about the referendum before the election and thus had a hard time gauging public reaction.

“I had a feeling it would pass, but I wasn’t spending the money yet,” she said.

The transportation special purpose, local option sales tax will add 1 percent to the sales tax surcharge on goods sold in Clarke County. It will inflate the county’s overall sales tax rate to 8 percent.

Athens-Clarke County officials expect the penny tax to raise $109.5 million over five years to fund 19 projects.

Those projects, and the money earmarked for them in the referendum, included $25.6 million for road reconstruction and rehabilitation, $16.8 million for the Firefly Trail extension project, $10 million for the Oconee Rivers Greenway and $7.1 million for downtown streetscape improvements.

“There are so many projects that I think are extremely important for the community, like the (bicycle and pedestrian improvement) project in particular that will bring a lot more transportation equity to Athens,” Ralston said.

The TSPLOST included a $6 million earmark for a bicycle improvements program and $11 million to a program for pedestrian upgrades.

As a north Athens resident, Ralston also said he was happy to support $6 million included in the referendum for the Tallassee Road Bridge replacement project.

In addition to adding a penny surcharge for every dollar spent in Athens-Clarke, the referendum also allows for the local government to seek up to $95 million in bonds to be repaid with TSPLOST collections.

Denson said the bond will permit officials to more quickly tackle some projects noted on the referendum. She said city staff soon will start working to identify projects ripe for a more immediate response that can be paid for with bonds.

TSPLOST collections will start April 1.

Complete list of TSPLOST projects and associated earmark:

  • Airport Capital Improvement Program Matching Funds - $1,531,000
  • Transit Vehicle Expansion & Replacement Project - $4,000,000
  • Bus Stop & Transfer Facilities Improvement Project - $500,000
  • Transit Service Expansion Project - $940,000
  • Oconee Rivers Greenway Project - $10,000,000
  • Firefly Trail Project - $16,752,000
  • Pavement Rehabilitation - $25,600,000
  • Tallassee Road Bridge Replacment Project - $6,000,000
  • Downtown Transportation Improvement Program - $7,097,000
  • Whitehall Road at S. Milledge Avenue Project - $2,500,000
  • Bicycle Improvements Program - $6,000,000
  • Pedestrian Improvements Program - $11,000,000
  • W. Broad Area Pedestrian Improvements - $4,000,000
  • Lexington Highway Corridor Improvements - $4,000,000
  • Atlanta Highway Corridor Improvements - $4,000,000
  • Prince Avenue Corridor Improvements - $4,000,000
  • Acquisition of Private Streets Project - $340,000
  • City of Winterville Projects - $969,000
  • Town of Bogart Projects - $271,000

 

 

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