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T-SPLOST moving forward, Riverwatch extension up to voters

T-SPLOST moving forward

Adding on a penny to your taxes could help alleviate traffic on some of the CSRA's busiest roads. (WRDW-TV / Aug. 11, 2011)

News 12 at 6 o'clock / Thursday, Aug. 11, 2011

EVANS, Ga. -- The list is done -- $630 million worth of area road projects has been finalized.

The T-SPLOST is moving forward, and soon it will be up to you to approve it or not. Voters head to the polls next year to vote on the penny sales tax.

The wish list has been narrowed down and now a majority of people in the 13-county region must vote yes for the T-SPLOST to get the green light.

One of the projects could help alleviate traffic on Washington Road by creating an extension of Riverwatch Parkway.

This could be helpful for residents like Rosie Allen-Noble, who avoids Washington Road at all costs.

'It's time consuming," she said. "There are so many lights and the more you stop and start, the more gas you use."

She is excited her vote will count towards the region's transportation penny sales tax, or T-SPLOST.

"I would support it, be glad to pay an extra penny to be able to get to one point to the other without so many stops, without congestion," Allen-Noble said.

Thirteen counties have worked for months to finalize the work list.

"The list is done. We looked at our area and we tried to find projects that would help move traffic," said Columbia County Maintenance and Construction Director Matt Schlachter.

If voters approve the 10-year one-cent tax, the region expects to generate about $700 million dollars for road work.

"If you're in our region, you're helping pave the roads in our region, you're helping widen the roads in our region," Schlachter said. "So folks from North Augusta, Aiken County coming over here to shop -- are going to pay for the roads they're coming over here and driving on. So, I think it's a very fair tax."

At the top of the list, and scheduled for the first phase, is the Riverwatch Extension. The plan is to take Old Petersburg and part of Old Evans straight to one of the area's busiest roads.

It would give drivers a smoother commute from downtown Augusta to Evans with few stops.

"It will take probably five signals out of your way if you took Riverwatch versus taking Washington Road," Schlachter said.

It's a price Allen-Noble is willing to pay.

"Convenience always costs," she said.

If it passes, each county will get a piece of the pie, in terms of approved projects and in terms of cold hard cash for road work.

Keep in mind, if the T-SPLOST does not pass next year, many of the projects could be canceled or delayed for years until funding comes through.

The T-SPLOST committee is meeting Monday to present the final project list to the region representatives. Members will be planning several public meetings to try and sell the package to voters.

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