published Monday, July 11th, 2011

Highway projects proposal trimmed

by Andy Johns
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Regional leaders have taken the first whacks at whittling down the wish list of Georgia transportation projects slated for a vote next year, but the revised list is still $59 million more than projected revenue.

Considering the list was nearly $1.5 billion above the revenue at first, local leaders see a lot of progress.

“It’s just a first step at it,” said Whitfield County Commission Chairman Mike Babb. “There’s a little balancing that has to take place.”

In November 2012, Northwest Georgians will vote on a 10-year, 1 percent sales tax to pay for a list of projects that originally ranged from $237 million for highway reconstruction in Floyd County to $800 for handrails on a sidewalk in Menlo.

Babb is a member of the Georgia Department of Transportation’s Round Table Executive Committee for Northwest Georgia, which is charged with deciding which projects make it onto the final list.

“So far, everybody seems to be satisfied,” said Ted Rumley, Dade County executive and a member of the committee with Babb.

The list now includes $34 million in widening projects on Dietz Road, Highway 151 and Mack Smith Road in Catoosa County; two revamped interchanges in Whitfield County; a new interchange in Dade County; and a truck bypass around Rossville in Walker County. The plan also includes improvements to the Chattanooga and Chickamauga Railway in Walker and a handful of new roundabouts on roads around the region.

But even with the work in those counties, the bulk of the money is being spent in Floyd, Polk and Bartow counties, which Babb said is “going to be the rub.”

Of the $1.1 billion left after the most recent cuts, Whitfield, Walker, Catoosa, Dade, Murray and Gordon counties get about $245 million. Floyd by itself is set to receive about $360 million.

Babb said the current list and projections on money generated by the sales tax would have Whitfield raising about $160 million in tax, but seeing $110 million of that going to projects in other counties. That would be a hard sale to Whitfield County voters, he said.

“I think there’s going to have to be some kind of leveling,” Babb said.

David Howerin, the planning director for the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission, said the executive committee will meet again July 27 in Rome to finalize the list. The full roundtable must approve a completed document by Oct. 15 for the list to go to a vote next November.

about Andy Johns...

Andy began working at the Times Free Press in July 2008 as a general assignment reporter before focusing on Northwest Georgia and Georgia politics in May of 2009. Before coming to the Times Free Press, Andy worked for the Anniston Star, the Rome News Tribune and the Campus Carrier at Berry College, where he graduated with a communications degree in 2006. He is pursuing a master’s degree in business administration at the University of Tennessee ...

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