Residents' opinions mixed on T-SPLOST

SUWANEE -- As a Braselton resident who owns a business in Suwanee, Audrey Wood has a vested interest in traffic in and around the city.

Wood, a co-owner of Hairllucinations, would like to be able to choose the city where her vote is cast because the projects related to her commute, and clients' path to her hair salon in Town Center, are different than the Jackson County project list.

"We pay (business taxes) into Suwanee and Gwinnett County," Wood said. "But we don't have a say of what we're paying into. I think I should get to vote (in Suwanee). It's my home away from home, especially because I do pay taxes."

Regionally, voters in the 10-county metro Atlanta region will decide the referendum on July 31. 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.

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.

Suwanee has outlined at least 45 road, intersection or sidewalk projects that could be funded in part by the Transportation Investment Act. 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.

One of Wood's clients, Irene Purwono, said she's in favor of anything that would improve traffic. Purwono said one of her daughters, a Lawrenceville resident, turned down a job in Atlanta because of the hour commute. Instead, her daughter works at a part-time job with a shorter commute.

"It pays less," Purwono said. "But she said, 'I'd rather take the 'pays less' job than the one with the hour commute.'"

Those who oppose the measure include Suwanee resident Jimmy Spiro, who said he's not confident the money will be spent as advertised.

"Anytime you get an opportunity for taxation, it seems like it never goes in the right place," Spiro said. "I do a better job of spending my money than the government does."

Spiro is in favor of a four-lane Buford Highway, similar to the way Peachtree Industrial Boulevard is constructed. Wood would be in favor of a wider Buford Highway that could bring more traffic to Town Center, but she wondered if parking would be effected.

"How can they do that without (the road) being on the steps right there," she said, and pointed toward the Town Center stage.

Mellow Mushroom bartender Ryan Fourne would look forward to the day when a widened Buford Highway would include parallel parking, especially during events when parking spots are scarce at Town Center.

Otherwise, Fourne is in favor of the referendum.

"Go for it, I think it's brilliant," he said. "We need to change from being the worst commuting city in America."