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County sets timeline for T-SPLOST vote

POSTED: October 5, 2017 8:52 a.m.

Voters will be asked to approve a T-SPLOST measure next spring to raise money for transportation projects across Bryan County and the cities of Richmond Hill and Pembroke.

County commissioners discussed the plan at a workshop Tuesday ahead of their regular meeting scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Oct. 11 at the administrative building in South Bryan.

The timeline calls for officials from all three entities to meet by Nov. 15 to discuss the vote, and they are supposed to approve a list of projects the money would be used for by Dec. 16. The measure would be placed on the May 22 ballot and the tax revenue would be collected starting July 1.

County Administrator Ben Taylor has said a 0.75-cent levy would bring in close to $20 million over five years.

If officials cannot come to an agreement by Dec. 16 on how the money would be divided among the three entities, the state will split the money for them based on the percentage of transportation expenditures each currently makes.

The regular SPLOST renewal, set for the Nov. 7 ballot, is expected to raise about $33 million over six years. Commissioners in July voted to split that money based on population, with the county receiving about $18.8 million and Richmond Hill and Pembroke getting $11 million and $3.2 million, respectively.

The Georgia Legislature now allows counties to individually seek such transportation funding. A regional T-SPLOST proposal in 2012 lost, with Bryan and Liberty counties being the only jurisdictions out of 10 in Coastal Georgia to approve the measure.

The T-SPLOST money would be used on a variety of projects that would complement the proposed widening of Highway 144 and the new interchange on I-95 at Belfast Keller Road.

A 2015 transportation study based on the new interchange found that Belfast Keller is projected to grow from a current 5,000 vehicles per day to 59,000 per day in 2030. Harris Trail will jump from 3,500 vehicles per day to 19,000 and Highway 144 is expected to see an increase from the current 26,000 vpd to 51,000.

The study also recommends adding another road that would run northeast/southwest and connect Belfast Keller, Harris Trail and Highway 144 about halfway between Port Royal Road and Belfast River Road, possibly with roundabouts at each intersection.

Roundabouts, traffic signals or some other type of improvements are suggested for the following intersections:

*Port Royal Road at Highway 144

*Port Royal Road at Harris Trail

*Highway 144 at Spur 144

*Harris Trail at Belfast River Road

*Highway 144 at Oak Level Road

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Bryan County was the 27th fastest growing county in the nation from 2010 to 2015. The population here in 1980 was 7,000. It is now approaching 40,000 and expected to reach 60,000 by 2030.

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