Voters Tuesday decided to begin another round of ESPLOST, or the penny sales tax to fund capital projects for schools. While nobody really likes paying taxes, the beauty of a SPLOST is that everyone who buys something in Bryan County pays it.
In July, another sales tax vote will show up on the ballot — this one called the T-SPLOST. You’ve probably heard of it. If not, in a nutshell, it is a regional penny sales tax for transportation projects and, given the state of area roads, that money is sorely needed. Among the local projects of great importance are a new interchange at I-95 and Belfast Siding Road, the four-laning of Highway 144 east of Richmond Hill and improvements to Highway 17.
There is also a DOT list of projects that include making I-95 eight lanes instead of the current six from the 144 interchange to I-16, widening 17 from four to six lanes from I-95 south to Hwy. 196 in Liberty County. Both would include raised center medians.
Whether any of these projects come to fruition is unclear, though it’s almost a certainty they won’t any time soon if the T-SPLOST doesn’t pass. If it does, then Bryan County will have to take its turn and split T-SPLOST proceeds and projects with other regional governments looking for their own road upgrades.
But it’s hard to argue that the above listed road improvements aren’t needed, both for safety and economic reasons. A Belfast Siding interchange will help spur development of much of that area of Bryan County through the Belfast Commercial Center.
Equally important is the need for safer roads, which are made necessary by the rapid growth of the past decade, when both population and traffic exploded but little attention was paid to infrastructure. We are driving on a road system that has seen little significant upgrade in design or capacity since the mid 1980s. In case you haven’t noticed, it’s both dangerous and crowded out there.
A sales tax at least spreads the burden of beginning to bring our roads into the 21st Century to all who live in the region and purchase goods and services. That makes it worth support.