Final transportation SPLOST list approved

An Atlanta Regional Commission roundtable, after months of debating, cutting, and receiving public input, has finalized the metropolitan-Atlanta area’s $6.14 transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) project list.

Representatives from 10 metro counties, and the City of Atlanta, approved the final list during a brief meeting Thursday morning in downtown Atlanta. If the SPLOST package is approved by voters in the region next year, nearly half-a-billion dollars worth of transportation-improvement projects will be undertaken over the next decade in Clayton and Henry counties, according to documents provided by the ARC.

Among the $497.3 million in local projects that made the final list are: Planning for an Atlanta-to-Griffin commuter rail line; the restoration of local bus service in Clayton County; conversion of part of Tara Boulevard into a “super arterial” highway; building a Jonesboro south connector road (in Clayton) and a western parallel connector road (in Henry); and extending and upgrading Ga. Hwys. 20/81, in McDonough.

“It is now final,” said ARC Spokesman Jim Jaquish. “That’s THE list.”

The 15 Clayton and Henry projects touch on many of the areas that local residents and officials have said are needed to improve transportation in each county. “This final list of investments will move us forward and make sure the Atlanta region remains competitive,” said Norcross Mayor Bucky Johnson, the roundtable’s chairman, in a written statement.

Clayton County was allocated $313.17 million, or 5.1 percent of the SPLOST total. The biggest “gets” in Clayton County’s allocation are two projects that county officials have said are needed to move transportation forward in the county. County officials got the local bus service ($100 million), and commuter rail planning funds ($20 million) that they wanted.

Several county residents said during a town hall forum last month that they wanted to see local bus service and commuter rail come to the county. County Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell has said the planning funds are needed for the commuter rail line, because they would allow the region to do all of the preparatory work needed to make the rail line “shovel ready,” in case possible future funding sources open up to build it.

The Jonesboro connector road, which will connect Tara boulevard with Lake Jodeco Road, received $15 million. Funding for the Tara Boulevard “super arterial” road was reduced from $130 million, to $102.17 million, largely to make room for the commuter rail planning funds.

Funds were also allocated for widening Conley Road ($28.5 million), parts of Ga. Hwy. 85 ($39.4 million) and Ga. Hwy. 54, from McDonough Road (in Fayette County), to Tara Boulevard ($8.1 million).

Bell could not be reached Thursday for comment on Clayton County’s allocation.

Henry County was allocated $183.5 million, or 3 percent of the total funding in the regional transportation SPLOST. The lion’s share of that allocation would be tied up in road-widening projects, if the SPLOST is approved by voters.

Those widening projects, which would take place on U.S. Hwy. 23/Ga. Hwy. 42 ($44 million); Ga. Hwy. 155 ($48 million); Ga. Hwy. 81 ($27 million); and Bill Gardner Parkway, make up a total of $146 million of the county’s allocation.

Henry also got a $17 million allocation for a western parallel connector road, that would stretch from Hudson Bridge Road, to Ga. Hwy. 920.

The county’s allocation also includes $9.5 million for interchange improvements at the intersection of Interstate 75-South and Bill Gardner Parkway; and $11 million for the extension of Ga. Hwys. 20 and 81, in McDonough, from Jonesboro Road (at the Norfolk Southern Railroad line), to Lemon Street.

Henry County Commission Chairperson Elizabeth “B.J.” Mathis could not be reached Thursday night for comment on her county’s allocated projects.

Residents in the metropolitan-Atlanta region are expected to vote on the SPLOST package during the July 31, 2012 political party primaries. Roundtable Chairman Johnson is required to forward the project list to each elections superintendent in the region by Saturday, under the state’s Transportation Investment Act.

“This is an historic day for the Atlanta region,” said ARC Chairman Tad Leithead, in a written statement. “When this referendum passes next year, these investments will help metro Atlanta residents, now and in the future, travel more efficiently to work, school and home, to spend more time with their families.”