Local officials are holding a meeting today to discuss the upcoming transportation sales tax referendum.
The Columbia County Chamber of Commerce and county leaders will lead the Transportation Investment Act town hall meeting at 6 p.m. today at the Jabez Sanford Hardin Performing Arts Center in Evans.
“(Residents) are going to really learn how it was developed, what road projects will be identified and why they should support it,” Chamber President Tammy Shepherd said.
The proposed additional 1-percent sales tax, or T-SPLOST, will be on the July 31 ballot. All funds collected will go toward transportation projects identified by local leaders.
Residents in each of 12 Georgia regions can approve or deny the T-SPLOST in their districts. The Central Savannah River District is made up of 13 counties, including Columbia and Richmond.
If passed, the referendum will provide $621 million over 10 years for the entire region, and fund eight Columbia County projects that leaders prioritized at discussions last summer.
That list includes the extension of Riverwatch Parkway to Washington Road; the widening and improvement of Robinson Avenue in Grovetown; the widening of Flowing Wells Road; widening Lewiston Road and Horizon South Parkway; and replacing the bridge and improving the Interstate 20 interchange at Appling-Harlem Highway.
“These are the major corridors for our community,” Shepherd said. “That’s why it’s so important.”
The county’s population grew 35 percent – about 38,000 residents – in the past decade, Shepherd noted.
Officials expect that $840 million will be collected in the CSRA region over 10 years. Because that is 25 percent more than the total of the project list, the remaining money will be divvied up between the counties in the region as discretionary funds that leaders can use for additional transportation projects, Shepherd said.
Shepherd said, if approved, the resulting improved travel routes will attract more economic growth. The upgrades are vital, she said, as infrastructure to support the increased freight traffic from the deepening of Savannah Harbor.
“It is a fair tax,” Shepherd said.
A second town hall meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. on July 24 at the government center auditorium.