New bus service in Columbus, new bridges in SE Ga. among upgrades voters funded by approving sales tax

By David Pendered

Three regions in Georgia are getting ready to start building roads and bridges, and improving public transit, because voters approved a proposed 1 percent sales tax that was on the ballot Tuesday.

U.S. 1 bridge over Altamaha River

This bridge over the Altamaha River on U.S. 1, near Plant Hatch in Baxley, is slated to be replaced. Credit: vanishingsouthgeorgia.com

Consequently, $1.8 billion worth of projects are to be completed over the next decade in the special tax districts surrounding Augusta, Columbus and Dublin. The amount of approved construction is 1/10th of the $18 billion that had been proposed in all 12 of the special tax districts.

One of two transit projects approved by voters is to provide intercity bus service between Downtown Columbus and three sites in the Columbus/Muscogee area. The second is to help pay for maintaining and operating Augusta Public Transit.

Here’s a snapshot of the three districts, according to information culled from the Secretary of State’s Elections Division and the Georgia Department of Transportation. The vote counts are not unofficial until certified by the Secretary of State:

Central Savannah River Area

  • $841 million in planned construction;
  • The tax was approved by 53.68 percent of the 91,916 ballots cast;
  • The tallies were 49,336 in favor; 42,580 opposed;
  • Counties: Columbia, Glascock, Hancock, Jefferson, Jenkins, Lincoln, McDuffie, Richmond, Taliaferro, Warren, Washington, and Wilkes.
  • Projects include replacing a bridge at I-20 and Ga. 221; bypasses at Sparta and Louisville; and numerous bridge replacements.
  • The Augusta Public Transit system is to receive $7.5 million to help pay for operations and maintenance. The system travels 2,313 miles a day and serves more than 3,000 customers a day.

River Valley

  • $594 million in planned construction;
  • The tax was approved by 54.37 percent of the 53,029 ballots cast;
  • The tallies were 28,831 in favor; 24,198 opposed;
  • Counties: Crisp, Dooly, Harris, Macon, Muscogee, Randolph, Sumter, Talbot, and Taylor.
  • Projects include building the Columbia River Walk; U.S. 27 at Custer Road, near Fort Benning; and several passing lanes and traffic lights;
  • Details of the intercity bus service call for construction of three express bus park-and ride location using existing sites; each route will have a wheelchair accessible bus; service hours are Monday through Saturday from 4:20 a.m. to either 7:20 p.m. or 11:20 p.m.

Heart of Georgia Altamaha

  • $399 million in planned construction;
  • The tax was approved by 51.69 percent of the 55,140 ballots cast;
  • The tallies were 28,502 in favor; 26,638 opposed;
  • Counties: Appling, Dodge, Emanuel, Evans, Jeff Davis, Laurens, Tattnall, Toombs, and Wayne
  • Projects include replacing a total of three bridges and improving one bridge over the Altamaha, Canoochee, and Oconee rivers; a railroad overpass on Ga. 169; the Eastman Bypass; and several road widenings on state routes.
  • Details of one bridge project call for replacing a structure on U.S. 1 near Plant Hatch, near Baxley, that crosses the Altamaha River; the $24.8 million project calls for “replacing three functionally and structurally deficient two-lane bridges.”

About David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with nearly 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.
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