Photo by Brian Giandelone
LAWRENCEVILLE -- Officials will create a project list Monday for $6.14 billion in road and transit funds expected to be generated by a proposed regional sales tax, which voters will consider next year.
But will the list be fair for Gwinnett?
"We are cautiously optimistic," Chairwoman Charlotte Nash said, after pushing all last week for a fair piece of the $8 billion pie. "We are watching carefully and waiting to see the official action of the executive committee on Monday."
Gwinnett is expected to raise more than $1.2 billion in the next 10 years, but a proposed project list includes $842.1 million in road and transit projects for Gwinnett, and the county is expected to get another $200 million for projects it chooses itself. And the list has to be cut by another $500 million or so.
Norcross Mayor Bucky Johnson is the chairman of the six-person executive commttee creating a draft list of projects for the entire 10-county metro area.
While leaders, especially in DeKalb, have cried foul about the proposal so far, Johnson said people should wait until the end of the process to decide.
"The dollars for sure are important, but we are all affected by traffic in the region," Johnson said. "The big issue is how is this helping us with our traffic congestion, economic development, quality of life. ... The whole idea is this is a regional (special purpose local option sales tax). It's not a county SPLOST."
Johnson pointed out that things like a major reconstruction of the interchange at Interstate 85 and Ga. Highway 400 will benefit Gwinnettians even though it isn't within the county.
Still on the proposed list is nearly $300 million for an extension to Sugarloaf Parkway, grade separations along Ga. Highway 316 at Harbins Road, Hi-Hope Road and U.S. Highway 29, a long-awaited widening of Ga. Highway 20 in Sugar Hill, intersection improvements at U.S. Highway 78 and Ga. Highway 124, an interchange on I-85 at Ga. Highway 324 and other projects. While $1.3 billion in projects to extend a rail line to the Gwinnett Arena were not approved, $100 million was set aside to get the corridor under way.
According to a state law on the proposed tax, Monday is the deadline for the executive committee to submit a list to a roundtable comprised of county commission chairs and mayors, including Nash.
If the list is not viewed as fair, Gwinnett's leader has vowed to fight for the county's portion. After all, many local leaders are expected to help campaign for the tax.
"It's one thing to think regionally. It's another to sacrifice that much," she said. "I can't face the voters and say this is even a reasonable list if we don't have a substantial number of road projects."