Lagging investment crippling local and national transportation infrastructure. TSPLOST provides local funding mechanism.
By Bárbara Rivera Holmes
President & CEO
Albany Area Chamber of Commerce
When it comes to moving people or goods, transportation is key.
Transportation is simply defined as transporting someone or something, or the process of being transported. That action or process is facilitated by many factors, including quality roads, roadway signage, efficient intersections and sidewalks. Without maintenance of these factors, the “someone or something” can’t be transported or the efficiency of the transport is significantly diminished. This hurts commerce, and when commerce suffers, so do people and economies.
Now during early voting and on March 19, voters in Albany and Dougherty County can vote to invest in safe and efficient transportation, enhancing the health of our economy and the quality of life for our residents. From roadway improvements to sidewalks, the project list for the $80 million Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (TSPLOST) addresses needs that are critical to economic growth.
TSPLOST allows voters to dedicate a 1 percent sales tax for special transportation projects. That 1 percent sales tax would be applied to all goods and services that are taxable; it is an equitable consumption tax shared by all who make purchases in Albany and Dougherty County. TSPLOST is estimated to generate $80 million in revenue during its five-year life cycle. Of that $80 million, nearly half could be generated by out-of-town visitors to the community, diminishing by nearly 50 percent the contribution to be made by local residents and business owners. Full benefit at nearly half the cost.
Areas of needed improvements that are supported by TSPLOST include:
The single largest allocation of TSPLOST funds includes road resurfacing and associated infrastructure for roads in poor/very poor condition, preventing the continued structural deterioration of more than 250 miles of roads in Albany and Dougherty County.
TSPLOST allocates funds to intersection upgrades and road improvements to ease traffic congestion and improve safety. Funds are also dedicated to roadway widenings that impact traffic congestion and safety.
Sidewalk installation and improvements are included in TSPLOST project list. This includes installation of concrete sidewalks to enhance pedestrian safety near schools and other heavily traveled areas where sidewalks are lacking.
Years ago, “All Roads Lead to Albany” was a popular Chamber campaign touting the roadway infrastructure of Albany and Dougherty County. The campaign was effective; the community’s four-lane highway connectivity, interior road grid, quality of roads and accessibility to interstates has proved a selling point for manufacturing, distribution and logistics companies that have relocated or expanded locations to Albany and Dougherty County.
Today, the narrative behind “All Roads Lead to Albany” remains a relevant selling point. But those roads, through years and years of increasing wear and tear, are in need of maintenance that far exceeds the available funding.
Nationally, the situation is alarmingly similar. The American Association of Civil Engineers (AACE) gave the American transportation infrastructure a grade of D+ and estimated a $2 trillion infrastructure gap, including investments for surface transportation such as bridges and roadways. According to a recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce report, AACE estimates that four in 10 American roads are in poor to mediocre condition and that by 2025, our nation’s failing infrastructure systems will have cost American businesses $7 trillion.
“Moreover,” the article stated, “roadway features are likely a contributing factor in approximately a third of traffic fatalities, according to national transportation research group TRIP, while motor vehicle crashes in which roadways were a likely contributing factor cost American motorists $101.1 billion per year
“In large part,” the U.S. Chamber concluded, “our country’s failing infrastructure is due to lagging investment. While population, road congestion and maintenance backlogs have ballooned, investment into maintaining, repairing and upgrading our critical infrastructure systems has slipped.
“You don’t have to be a civil engineer to know that our nation’s infrastructure is falling apart,” said U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Donohue. “All you have to do is leave your house. The evidence is everywhere – and affects everyone.”
Communities close to Albany and Dougherty County, and cities and counties throughout Georgia, are addressing chronic transportation funding gaps through the passage of TSPLOST. If voters in Albany and Dougherty County do not pass the referendum, the needs will continue to go unmet, creating a more challenging and costlier situation for local residents and business owners. These challenges will ultimately need a solution, and without other funding mechanisms that help offset the local investment, residents and business owners in Albany and Dougherty County will, at some point and in some way, likely assume the full expense of updating the community’s transportation infrastructure and assets.
Understanding the need for adequate transportation infrastructure for the economic health of our community and the quality of life of our citizens, the Albany Area Chamber supports passage of TSPLOST and encourages residents of Albany and Dougherty County to “VOTE YES TO TSPLOST” now during early voting or on March 19.
Bárbara Rivera Holmes is president and CEO of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce, which advocates for business success through leadership and economic development.