Coweta County has 27 projects on its list for the proposed Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.
The vast majority of those projects are intersection improvements at some of the most problematic intersections in the county. The majority of the projects on the list are located in the eastern and northern parts of the county, where most of the growth of the last two decades has been concentrated.
Coweta voters will decide whether or not to impose the new, 1-percent sales tax for transportation projects. If approved in the Nov. 5 election, the tax will be imposed for five years.
Under the state law that provides for a single-county TSPLOST, proceeds from the tax are used to fund a list of specific projects, which must be determined before voters decide whether or not to implement the tax.
Project lists for the smaller municipalities will be detailed in a future story.
Crafting the list was a nearly year-long process that included public input and vetting by a traffic engineering company.
Under the intergovernmental agreement approved by the county and the various municipalities, the county will receive 66 percent of the total TSPLOST revenues, with the rest of the money divided among the municipalities.
For many of the projects, county officials know that the intersections or roads need improvements, but what form those improvements will take is still conceptual. County staff and consultants had to come up with conceptual plans to arrive at cost estimates, but as each project is actually studied and engineered, the plans might change.
“The design engineers may have a solution that doesn’t cost as much or a solution that is more safe and more efficient that costs a little more,” said Coweta County Associate Administrator Eddie Whitlock.
In addition, the Georgia Department of Transportation has the final say on any project that involves a state or federal highway – which includes many of the TSPLOST projects.
GDOT has already quashed the idea of a roundabout on Ga. Hwy. 154 at the intersection of George Coggin Road and the Springwater subdivision.
The state didn’t think a roundabout would work with the high traffic volumes in the area, said Coweta Public Works Director Tod Handley. So that project was changed to doing preliminary engineering and design – but not construction – on improvements on Hwy. 154 from Hammock Road to Interstate 85.
The county’s portion of work on Lower Fayetteville will be based on the recommendations of a scoping study that was just approved by the Newnan City Council. The county is planning for operational improvements, including intersection improvements at Parks Road, on the section of Lower Fayetteville from Sullivan Road to Ga. Hwy. 154.
Work at Ga. Hwy. 16 and Elders Mill will also be contingent on what is approved by GDOT. Improving that intersection is a critical safety project, according to Whitlock.
Several of the intersection projects are designed to increase safety, and Whitlock referred to them as “life savers.”
The most expensive project on the list is the Amlajack Boulevard Extension, which will lengthen Amlajack Boulevard to connect to Coweta Industrial Parkway, off Hwy. 154. It’s estimated to cost $19 million, even though it’s just over two miles. The high cost is because of two bridges over wetlands and other engineering issues, according to county officials.
Handley, Whitlock and County Administrator Michael Fouts were asked why the county feels it’s necessary to move forward with that project when $19 million would nearly fix the Hwy. 154 and U.S. 29 intersection or widen a portion of Hwy. 154.
Building that road is seen as the first big step in getting the new I-85 interchange between Exists 47 and 51. The interchange would be on a new road connecting the Amlajack Extension and an extension of Hollz Parkway. It also includes the Madras Connector project. The county is including engineering for that entire road network on the TSPLOST list.
“We have to build the local roadway to justify to the Federal Highway Administration that we have connecting roads, to get funding” for the future interchange, Fouts said. With the county building the connecting network, hopes are that the timeline for the new interchange will be moved up.
“You’ve got to have the connectivity before they’ll consider it,” Whitlock said.
The new road is also expected to improve congestion on Hwy. 154, as well as Hwy. 34, by reducing truck traffic and giving trucks an option to come out on either highway.
The current plan to improve the intersection of U.S. 29 and Hwy. 154 is to move the intersection north and construct a bridge over the railroad. It’s an approximately $24 million project, which will be controlled by the state and federal government. The county is including engineering for the project in the TSPLOST list.
It’s a complicated project that also includes CSX Railroad. And the project could grow once federal funds are involved, according to Handley. The Federal Highway Administration will want to know where the “logical termini” are for the project, and may end up wanting the project to go all the way down Hwy. 154 to the interstate, to Hammock Road, or even to Hwy. 34, Handley said.
The state currently has construction of the intersection improvement on its “long-range” list.
“We’re trying to bring that down to a closer date, instead of waiting on GDOT 15 years from now,” Handley said. If the county can approach GDOT with money and a plan that is ready to go, it can help kickstart the project.
That’s an approach that worked for the Poplar Road interchange, and the city of Newnan is taking a similar approach to improvements on Lower Fayetteville.
Replacing the money that TSPLOST is expected to raise with property taxes would require a significant tax increase of between 4 and 5 mills, according to Fouts. The county’s proposed property tax rate for 2019 is 6.6 mills.
With the sales tax, approximately 40 percent is paid by people who don’t live here and don’t pay property taxes, Fouts said. But those people use Coweta’s roads, shop here and may work here.
With the TSPLOST, “we have an opportunity for our community to advance transportation and safety,” Whitlock said.
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COWETA'S TSPLOST PROJECT LIST
U.S. 29 and Hwy. 154 intersection improvement - preliminary engineering only
Ga. Hwy. 16 West at Witcher and Glover Road - intersection improvement
Poplar Road operational and intersection improvements – Parks, Mary Freeman, Hwy. 16.
Amlajack Boulevard extension to Coweta Industrial Parkway
U.S. 29/27 south of Moreland - right-of-way only for future roundabout
Andrew Bailey Road at Fischer Road - intersection improvement
Canongate Road at Collinsworth Road – move intersection away from the interstate
Corinth/West Grantville/Earl North/Hannah Road - intersection improvement
Eastside School Road and Old Hwy. 85 - intersection improvement
Ga. Hwy. 16 and Elders Mill Road - intersection improvement
Ga. Hwy. 16, Lawshe Road and Old. Hwy. 85 - intersection improvement
Ga. Hwy. 16 and Marion Beavers Road - intersection improvement
Ga. Hwy. 16 at Gordon Road - relocation of intersection away from the interstate bridge
Gordon Road and Al Roberts Road - intersection improvement
Gordon Road and Elders Mill Road - intersection improvement
Newnan Bypass and Turkey Creek Road - traffic light
Lower Fayetteville Road and Shenandoah Boulevard - intersection upgrade
Lower Fayetteville Road between Sullivan Road and Hwy. 154 – intersection improvements and operational upgrades
McIntosh Trail and Reese Road - intersection improvement
Ga. Hwy. 154 from Hammock Road to Interstate 85 – preliminary engineering for improvements
Madras Connector/Hollz Parkway, Amlajack Interchange – preliminary engineering only
Ga. Hwy. 54 at Bob Smith Road - intersection improvement
Ga. Hwy. 34 at Baker Road - intersection upgrades
Ga. Hwy. 16 at Dead Oak/McKnight roads - intersection improvement
Fischer Road at Minix Road - turn lanes
Palmetto-Tyrone Road at Minix Road - site distance improvements
Lower Fayetteville Road at Bob Smith Road - intersection improvement