SUWANEE -- The way elected officials in Suwanee see the July 31 transportation referendum, if the measure is passed, local road projects could be accelerated, and funding would be easier to find.
If passed, the city would receive about $3.5 million, which officials have said 60 percent of that would be used for maintenance and resurfacing of about 20 miles of roads. The remaining portion of the money would be used for intersections, two miles of new sidewalks and trail improvements.
Passing the Transportation Investment Act would allow the city to complete its project to reconstruct Buford Highway, Mayor Jimmy Burnette said. Although in November, the city secured a $3.3 million grant from the Atlanta Regional Commission, which would pay for part of the project. The grant said the project would, "safely accommodate multiple modes of transportation and help connect residents and visitors to a variety of activity centers."
That project is expected to cost $5.5 million, and be from George Pierce Park to McGinnis Ferry Road.
Although the money the city has currently allotted for Buford Highway accounts for about a quarter of a mile, money that's collected from the referendum could fund a section of one and a half miles.
Burnette said similar types of road projects would add access to interstates, and help clear congestion so traffic could move easier east and west.
Regionally, voters in the 10-county metro Atlanta region will decide the referendum. At issue is whether to fund $8.5 billion in road and transit projects, which would come from a 1 percent sales tax to goods. The tax would last 10 years, and the vote must be passed by a majority of the entire region. Advanced voting on the issue began on Monday.
The Suwanee City Hall will host a public information session on the TIA at 6 p.m. on Monday. The session will be held in conjunction with Gwinnett County officials.
"They've worked hard to pull together this regional plan," Burnette said. "Whether all the projects are good, or all the projects are bad, we do have some kind of plan in place now. We've got an opportunity to help improve our mobility, because it's just too important."
Other city council members agree with Burnette. Councilman Dick Goodman, who has lived in the area since 2006, called passing the the TIA "critical."
"We need it," Goodman said. "This region has ignored its transportation problems for many years prior to me being here."
Goodman said it's a tool to compete with other Southern cities like Charlotte, N.C., Raleigh, N.C. and Orlando, Fla.
"If we don't (pass it), we take ourselves out of the game," Goodman said.
Councilman Doug Ireland said he is concerned about potential waste or corruption that could result if the measure passes.
"I hate that, but doing nothing, I don't think that's an option," Ireland said. "I'm going to vote for it, but begrudgingly, because of the layers of government it creates."
Suwanee has outlined at least 45 road, intersection or sidewalk projects that it hopes to complete in stages and categories, by 2015, 2030 and beyond. City officials said many of those projects would still be completed if the TIA is voted down, but they would be delayed, or the city may be forced to find other funding sources.
Burnette and Goodman both said opponents of the transportation referendum have not come up with an alternative plan, or ways to address road projects.
Mayor Pro Tem Dan Foster said in an email message that he has trouble understanding those who are against it.
"Our only alternatives to TSPLOST will be the continued pain and suffering for our citizens that drive," Foster said. "Ultimately, we will reach a point that our transportation infrastructure will not function during certain times of the day. Some will present the case that we have reached that point. This truly is an opportunity for our community to solve a major problem with attracting companies and improving our standard of living."