There will be public meetings this week in Fitzgerald, Toccoa and Dalton about next year’s transportation sales tax vote. They are part of a final round of meetings that will give residents there one last chance to discuss the projects that the tax would fund, if passed.
By law, boards in the state’s 12 transportation regions have to finalize the list of projects next month. Over the summer, they whittled down preliminary lists.
And officials say, the public meetings taking place across the state this week and next will help voters shape lists that they will want to approve.
Paul Bennecke is a consultant for the initiative. He says the members of the transportation roundtables still need public input.
“Public input is vitally important to the development of the project list. We’re talking about a transportation infrastructure investment that will last for the next ten years and so getting the public’s input on that project list will directly impact them from a day-to-day standpoint and also from an economic standpoint.”
The meetings are also an opportunity for advocates of particular projects. Gordon Kenna with Georgians For Passenger Rail, for example, supports a train line with federal financial support that would link Macon, Griffin and Atlanta. He’s attending meetings in Atlanta, and the Three Rivers transportation region, which includes Griffin.
“The Three Rivers Region is watching closely what Atlanta does so that if they elect not to put that project on the Atlanta region list, they have a backup plan to spend the money elsewhere," he said. "But their top priority is getting the commuter rail from Griffin into Atlanta.”
Boards in some of the 12 regions have already voted on the final projects. But the lists due in October don't pertain to the discretionary part of the tax. Regions will receive a certain percentage of the tax back to use as they see fit, and projects that don't make the lists could be funded with those monies.
The vote on the penny sales tax takes place next summer. Residents will vote on specific transportation projects in their area.
If passed, the tax would generate an estimated $18 billion for transportation over the ten years it would be in effect in Georgia.