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TIA funding supports transportation projects close to home

Posted: September 27, 2015 - 12:08am

One can’t drive too far in this county without seeing traffic cones and orange barrels.

As much as it consternates our commutes, these construction zones are necessary to keep our already-congested network of streets, thoroughfares and highways from full-on gridlock.

And at least Columbia County won’t have to worry about those projects running out of money. The Central Savannah River Area is one of three multicounty regions receiving extra road funding under the Transportation Investment Act Referendum, approved by regional voters in 2012.

Though a majority of Columbia County voters rejected the one-cent TIA tax, enough voters approved it in the 13-county CSRA to implement it regionwide. Those residents who voted “no” may find themselves having a change of heart in light of the $352 million that has been collected since January 2013 for road projects – 84 of which are in the CSRA and eight inside the county line.

While there’s nothing enjoyable about paying higher taxes – especially in light of Georgia’s retooled fuel tax that soaks the average driver for an additional 6 cents per gallon – county residents can take comfort in knowing that the 10-year TIA tax collections will stay here in the region instead of getting siphoned off to support Atlanta.

That means local projects such as the River Watch Parkway Extension in Evans and the Berckmans Road realignment, each estimated at about $20 million, have an extra layer of insulation against funding shortfalls.

Also, consider: Regions that approved the TIA tax have to match only 10 percent to receive state transportation grants. Most other Georgia counties that rejected the special sales tax have to put up 30 percent. That’s helpful to more rural regions of the county that don’t have the benefit of diverse tax bases.

And the inter-connectedness of the metro area’s economy – a majority of Columbia County residents work elsewhere, Census figures show – validates the need for a regional funding source.

We respect all the voters who opposed the TIA, but the approval was worth it if it means fewer traffic cones and barrels in and around the county.

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