WARBINGTON: Projects will be good for commuters

Last week, the Georgia Department of Transportation released its "unconstrained list" of projects to be considered by the metro Atlanta roundtable for funding for the 2012 Transportation Investment Act referendum (one penny sales tax). Although a third of the projects submitted by Gwinnett County, its 15 cities and the four Community Improvement Districts were cut, the roundtable will have a list of 46 Gwinnett projects valued at more than $2.25 billion from which to choose.

Considering that Gwinnett alone will collect $1.25 billion to $1.5 billion from the penny sales tax over the 10-year period, it appears that Gwinnett has an appropriate mix of projects to give flexibility to the roundtable in choosing the best projects to keep Gwinnett and the metro Atlanta region moving forward.

The list of 46 Gwinnett projects includes a mix of road widenings, grade separations, new interchanges, new road extensions, intersection improvements and new rail transit. This mirrors what a recent poll of Gwinnett County voters indicated as the top priorities for transportation improvements for the county, including a mix of rail and new and existing road improvements.

The list also includes projects that touch practically every corner of the county from improvements to U.S. Highway 78 and Ga. Highway 124 in Snellville and Loganville, to the widening of Ga. Highway 20 in Buford and Sugar Hill, to grade separations along Ga. Highway 316 in Lawrenceville and Dacula, to light rail transit in Norcross and Duluth. Residents and employees will be positively affected by at least one or more projects in your daily commute.

Although the release of the unconstrained list of projects is only round one in a multi-round process culminating with a referendum in the summer of 2012, it is encouraging to see progress being made to finally provide adequate funding for transportation for our community. The state has consistently ranked near the bottom in the nation in investment in transportation while our population growth has ranked near the top in the nation over the past decade. The result: Gridlock, hourlong commutes and loss of production for employees.

While I believe the 2012 transportation referendum will provide an immediate benefit to relieving traffic congestion, I also believe it will solidify Gwinnett's and the metro Atlanta region's future as the top area in the southeastern US for quality of life and businesses.

Chuck Warbington is executive director of the Gwinnett Village CID.