Albany Chamber: T-SPLOST Supports Critical Transportation Improvements

Bárbara Rivera Holmes

Monday, March 11th, 2019

When it comes to moving people or goods, transportation is key.

Transportation is simply defined as transporting someone or something, or the process of being transported. That action or process is facilitated by many factors, including quality roads, roadway signage, efficient intersections and sidewalks. Without maintenance of these factors, the “someone or something” can’t be transported or the efficiency of the transport is significantly diminished. This hurts commerce, and when commerce suffers, so do people and economies.

On March 19, voters in Albany and Dougherty County can vote to invest in safe and efficient transportation, enhancing the health of our economy and the quality of life for our residents. From roadway improvements to sidewalks, the project list for the $80 million transportation special purpose local option sales tax (T-SPLOST) addresses needs that are critical to economic growth.

Here’s how it works: T-SPLOST allows voters to dedicate a 1 percent sales tax for special transportation projects. That 1 percent sales tax would be applied to all goods and services that are taxable; it is an equitable consumption tax shared by all who make purchases in Albany and Dougherty County. T-SPLOST is estimated to generate $80 million in revenue during its five-year life cycle. Of that $80 million, nearly half could be generated by out-of-town visitors to the community, diminishing by nearly 50 percent the contribution to be made by local residents and business owners. Full benefit at nearly half the cost.

The 2019 T-SPLOST project list is varied. Here, three areas to note:

Roads: Of the $80 million that would be generated through T-SPLOST, 39 percent, or $30.1 million, is allocated to roadway improvements in Albany and Dougherty County. This allocation, the largest within the proposed project list, includes road resurfacing and associated infrastructure for roads in poor/very poor condition, preventing the continued structural deterioration of more than 250 miles of roads in Albany and Dougherty County.

Intersections: T-SPLOST allocates $5 million to intersection upgrades and road improvements to ease traffic congestion and improve safety. Another $2.25 million would be dedicated to roadway widenings that also impact traffic congestion and safety.

Sidewalks: Sidewalk installation and improvements comprise 9 percent, or $7.4 million, of the T-SPLOST allocation. This includes installation of concrete sidewalks to enhance pedestrian safety near schools and other heavily traveled areas where sidewalks are lacking.

Years ago, “All Roads Lead to Albany” was a popular chamber campaign touting the roadway infrastructure of Albany and Dougherty County. The campaign was effective; the community’s four-lane highway connectivity, interior road grid, quality of roads and accessibility to interstates has proved a selling point for manufacturing, distribution and logistics companies that have relocated or expanded locations to the city and county.

Today, the narrative behind “All Roads Lead to Albany” remains a relevant selling point. But those roads, through years and years of increasing wear and tear, are in need of maintenance that far exceeds the available funding.

Communities close to Albany and Dougherty County, and cities and counties all over Georgia, are addressing chronic transportation funding gaps through the passage of T-SPLOSTs. If voters in Albany and Dougherty County do not pass the referendum, the needs will continue to go unmet, creating a more challenging and costlier situation for local residents and business owners. These challenges will ultimately need a solution, and without other funding mechanisms that help offset the local investment, residents and business owners in the city and county will, at some point and in some way, likely assume the full expense of updating the community’s transportation infrastructure and assets.

Understanding the need for adequate transportation infrastructure for the economic health of our community and the quality of life of our citizens, the Albany Area Chamber supports passage of T-SPLOST and encourages residents of Albany and Dougherty County to “VOTE YES ON T-SPLOST” now during early voting or on March 19.