Lilbun's new roundabouts allow for smoother traffic flow into the downtown.
Several cities in Georgia are using general funds and special purpose sales taxes (SPLOST) to help pave roads, add new road capacity, install sidewalks and improve intersections—all in the name of moving people by car, bike or foot and stir economic development.
In the city of Cumming, dollars from the city’s general budget and from a Forsyth County-wide SPLOST are funding a new highway connecting Bald Ridge Marina Road to Pilgrim Mill Road. The new Lanier 400 Parkway is expected to be finished by late fall. The Cumming City Council approved lighting for the new road in July. The project will include 30 new, 155-watt LED street lights mounted on dark bronze poles.
“We hope the new roadway will provide an alternative to Highway 400 for people traveling in this area,” said Cumming Public Information Assistant Crystal Ledford. “We’ve also had a lot of retail interest in the new road due to its close vicinity to the proposed college and career academy, as well as to the already-existing Cumming Campus of the University of North Georgia, the Cumming Aquatic Center, Georgia Drivers’ Services Center and Georgia National Guard Regional Readiness Center, all located just off Pilgrim Mill Road.”
Additionally, three repaving projects not related to Lanier 400 Parkway are underway with funding from the city’s general funds.
Crews with Reid & Reid Contractors work on Lanier 400 Parkway in Cumming this Summer.
In Gwinnett County, there is a long list of projects that are funded with a local SPLOST designated for transportation projects and supported by the county and its cities. Lilburn’s realignment of Main Street is one example.
The project, which was completed earlier this year, includes about 22 acres of frontage road, making it a prime spot for economic growth.
“The reconfigured Main Street features a safer, more traditional intersection at Lawrenceville Highway,” said Lilburn Public Information Officer Nikki Perry. “The two roundabouts allow for smoother traffic flow to Old Town. Also, Church Street was lowered eight feet to improve sight distance and safety. The city, Gwinnett County, Lilburn Community Improvement District and the State Road and Tollway Authority all contributed funds to the $3.5-million project.”
“If we are going to have a vibrant downtown, we needed to have a gateway,” said Lilburn Mayor Johnny Crist. “Roundabouts are the intersections of the future: they are not only safe but also afford flexibility, landscaping and public art in the center.”
Georgia’s local governments collect $516 million in sales taxes on motor fuel sales yearly, yet spend more than $1.3 billion annually on transportation needs. In 2012, Georgia’s cities and counties supplemented their SPLOST transportation expenditures by nearly $600 million from general fund revenues.
Local governments now have even more tools to generate revenue for transportation, thanks to action by the General Assembly in the 2015 Legislative Session. GMA successfully encouraged the General Assembly to allow regions to self-start regional roundtables to try for another ten-year Transportation Investment Act sales tax without prior approval from legislators.
“Since the tax can be fractional, this authorization could make it more likely to get voter approval in areas which failed to pass it in 2012,” said Tom Gehl, GMA’s director of governmental relations.
GMA was also instrumental in gaining passage of a new, five-year county-level sales tax for transportation, which can be shared by cities in funding local transportation priorities.
Crist said while local sales taxes and general funds are important to improve the city’s infrastructure, those funds only go so far. He hopes to see long-term committed transportation funding from the state and the federal government.
“I don’t know what people did before SPLOST,” he said. “We are not borrowing money to make things happen, we are using general funds. However, we don’t have nearly enough resources to build roads or bridges. We need state and federal help for those.”