19 reasons why you should vote YES on TSPLOST


Please vote YES for TSPLOST! This is an opportunity to fund several projects that will improve transportation throughout the county, regardless of your mode of transportation.

As in many cities, Athenians are coming to realize that we cannot pave our way out of congestion, and that investments in multi-modal transportation infrastructure are necessary to provide equitable transportation alternatives for all of our citizens.

With more than 50 percent of the projects listed on the TSPLOST initiative earmarked for bike, bus or pedestrian projects, TSPLOST represents the greatest opportunity Athens-Clarke has ever had to address connectivity and quality-of-life issues for a large percentage of our population. Even the auto-centric projects present opportunities to increase mobility for all users.

We urge you to VOTE YES on TSPLOST on Nov. 7 (or take advantage of advance voting Oct. 16-Nov. 3). Here is our analysis of every project to help you understand where the 1 percent sales tax will go. We hope you find this info useful—and please share with your friends.

 

(Image: ??)

Project 1: Airport Capital Improvements Program

Credit: Athens-Clarke County

The TSPLOST funding is requested to provide the local matching funds required for these projects. The projects generally include Runway/ Taxiway Reconstruction/ Rehabilitation/ Improvements, Apron Paving, Terminal Improvements and other airport pavement maintenance.

 

Complete Streets Athens’ take: This is the only airport project on the list, with a possibility of leveraging these local dollars for State and Federal funding. While these funds do not ensure renewed scheduled passenger service for Ben Apps, funding this project should help in that direction.

 

Amount on ballot: $1,531,000

Potential GDOT Matching Funding: $5,500,000

Potential FAA Matching Funding$24,000,000

 


Project 2: Transit Vehicle Replacement and Spare Vehicle Program

Credit: UGA

The estimated $4 million that will be raised for this project will purchase up to 16 new hybrid-electric or similar alt-fuel buses by 2024. This replaces buses that are reaching the end of their lifespan and/or provides new buses that can be used to expand current Athens Transit services.

Complete Streets Athens’ take: This allows ACC’s bus system to run more efficiently and improves overall service. In addition, it will save Athens Transit funds in the long run by replacing existing, older buses that may be kept off the road due to expensive, time-consuming repairs.

Amount on ballot: $4,000,000

 

Project 3: Bus Stop & Transfer Facilities Improvements

Credit: Athens-Clarke County

The $500,000 raised by TSPLOST for this project will pay for improved signs (including static and/or electronic signs to predict bus arrivals), shelters and seating, landscaping, lighting, route information, bicycle racks, trash cans and other bus stop improvements.  Crucially, this funding may also be used to match funding for state and/or federal grants for additional transfer facilities or bus stop improvements. This funding could also be used for land acquisition, design, and construction of decentralized transit transfer facilities outside of the downtown terminal, with Athens Transit indicating a desire for East and West side transfer stations to improve route efficiency and rider convenience.

Complete Streets Athens’ take: While TSPLOST project 2 invests in newer, cleaner buses, this project invests in much needed transit infrastructure. These improvements are likely to help increase ridership as well as convenience and comfort for all Athens Transit riders, making stops more accessible and safe.


Amount on ballot: $500,000

 

Project 4 – Transit Service Expansion Project

Credit: Athens-Clarke County

Project includes extending Athens Transit bus service along the Hwy. 29 corridor. The extension would be approximately 4.6 miles (2.3 miles each way) and it would constitute a stand-alone route. The route would extend from Kroger to the Ingles grocery store (just north of the Clarke/Madison County line).

Complete Streets Athens’ take: This badly needed route has been identified in every transit study to date; it will connect a significant number of residents to fresh food and more.

Amount on ballot: $940,000

 

Project 5: Oconee Rivers Greenway

Credit: Athens-Clarke County

The Oconee Rivers Greenway Project will make an important contribution to Athens’ active transportation options because it will expand the multi-purpose trail system with a focus on improved connectivity to neighborhoods and the elimination of functional gaps along the existing corridor. Specific projects include the completion of trails that will connect Barnett Shoals Road residences to the new southern end of the network that is currently under construction, funded through SPLOST 2011. Additional trail segments will be selected by the Mayor and Commission from the high priority list identified in the 2016 Greenway Network Plan. Each high-priority trail project addresses an existing gap or connectivity goal.

Complete Streets Athens take: TSPLOST funding would capitalize on Greenway momentum–two big segments currently under construction–and accelerate the progress toward the “emerald necklace” of trails around the county. This is our opportunity to catch up with other communities across Georgia, spur economic development, boost quality of life, improve access to healthy trails, and connect neighborhoods to each other and to other amenities.

Amount on ballot: $10,000,000


Project 6: Firefly Trail

Credit: Firefly Trail

This project includes right-of-way acquisition, design and construction of an approximately 7-mile multi-purpose trail from the end of the first section of the Firefly Trail at Old Winterville Road (now under construction) to the county line east of Winterville. Ten to 14 feet wide and remarkably flat because it follows an abandoned railbed, the trail will provide an off-road corridor for active transportation, economic development and better health.

Complete Streets Athens’ take: This project includes a railroad-grade bridge over Trail Creek and builds the foundation for a nationally significant rail-trail that will eventually reach 39 miles from Athens to Union Point. Over 50% of ACC residents live within a few miles of this project, making it one of the most impactful projects on the list.

Amount on ballot: $16,752,000

 

Project 7: Pavement Rehabilitation

Credit: Pavementinteractive.org

On its face, the $25 million devoted to repaving represents an auto-centric transportation project. However, with an integrated Complete Streets implementation policy, “pavement rehabilitation” could be directed to include multi-faceted improvements, making our streets safer for all users.

Complete Streets Athens’ take: Athens-Clarke County has taken some steps to improve complete streets implementation, but has a way to go. We urge citizens to lobby your commissioner for “pavement rehabilitation” to include Complete Streets implementation.

Amount on ballot:  $25,600,000


Project 8 Tallassee Road Bridge Replacement Project

Project includes the design, land acquisition, and construction costs associated with replacement of the existing publicly owned Tallassee Road bridge over the CSX railway line (between Whitehead Rd and Westchester Dr).

Complete Streets Athens’ take: This project is long-awaited by residents of the Tallassee Road area. With the recently completed Tallassee Road roundabout, this bridge project will a fix the main safety concern for people walking and riding bikes. Replacing the existing bridge over the CSX railway line will provide a safe crossing for cars, trucks as well as people riding bicycles and walking.

Amount on ballot: $6,000,000


Project 9: Downtown Transportation Improvements Program (EFC – first draft)

This project includes the design and construction for specific improvements for the downtown transportation infrastructure. Project includes improvements to Clayton Street and connecting side streets for the completion of the 2005 SPLOST project including new sidewalks, storm drainage, streetscape, new paving, pedestrian safety improvements, operational and traffic flow improvements, and bicycle improvements between Pulaski Street and N. Thomas Street.

Complete Streets Athens take: A needed downtown project that offers the opportunity to take a Complete Streets approach to downtown streets, including improved sidewalks and crosswalks, traffic calming, and bicycle infrastructure. Downtown is a significant reason people visit Athens, and if it is going to be rebuilt, let’s make sure it is done right; it needs to be comfortable and safe for all people to walk, bike, and drive on Clayton Street, regardless of age or ability.

Amount on ballot:  $7,097,000

 

Project 10: Whitehall Road at S. Milledge Avenue Project

Includes construction of intersection improvements—namely, a roundabout—to the traffic operations and safety at the intersection of Whitehall Road / S. Milledge Avenue.

Complete Streets Athens take: When a traffic circle was first proposed at Tallassee Road, many residents scoffed. But drive through the intersection today and it’s a smooth, stress-free ride lauded by residents of the west end of the county. Athens-Clarke County wants to create the same experience at the foot of Milledge Avenue, where an uncomfortable intersection has plagued motorists and cyclists for decades. The $2.5 million raised by TSPLOST will provide for an upgraded intersection—and experience—at South Milledge and Whitehall Road.

Amount on ballot:  $2,500,000

 

Projects 11 and 12: Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plans

In 2016 the ACC government commissioned an update and expansion of Athens’ Bicycle Master Plan and subsequently expanded the scope to include ACC’s first ever Pedestrian Master Plan. Significant funding was approved to hire a consultant to lead the Bike/Pedestrian Master Plan (BPMP) process – branded as Athens in Motion and under the direction of the Toole Design Group.

Six months into the process, Athens in Motion is exciting for several reasons:

  • It incorporates a fresh approach to gathering citizen input. The BPMP committee is meeting people where they are instead of making them come to us. In addition, our monthly meetings have been well attended by the general public and presentations are posted on our website www.athensinmotionplan.com so that the public can follow the BPMP progress.
  • Recommendations will be based on current best practices rather than existing policy. For example, Level of Service, ACC’s primary, and auto based metric, will be augmented by Level of Comfort – the degree to which users feel safe using bike and pedestrian infrastructure.
  • Short, medium and long term projects will be aimed at increasing connectivity to economic, social and recreational opportunities.
  • Success will be measured through increased number of users rather than miles of new bike lanes/sidewalks.

Complete Streets Athens’ take: We believe Athens in Motion will be a watershed moment in ACC, if we vote for TSPLOST as a start towards funding its implementation. The Project 11 and 12 “buckets”  of funding for implementation represent the most significant outlays specifically for Bike/Ped infrastructure in ACC’s history, and we see no other realistic opportunity for funding at this level without TSPLOST.

 

Project 11: Bicycle Improvement Program

This project is intended for implementation of recommendations from the Bike/Ped Master Plan

Amount on ballot: $6,000,000

 

Project 12: Pedestrian Improvement Program

This project is intended for implementation of recommendations from the Bike/Ped Master Plan

Amount on ballot:  $11,000,000

 

Project 13: W. Broad Area Pedestrian Improvements

Project includes funding for pedestrian improvements in the West Broad area defined roughly as the neighborhood interior to Rocksprings/Baxter/Alps and West Hancock Avenue. Funding for the project will go toward land acquisition, design, constructing sidewalks, multi-use trail(s), installing pedestrian traffic lights, traffic management devices and other general streetscape improvements to improve pedestrian movement across the area and could include some work on the West Broad and Hancock intersection, though a complete reconstruction of that intersection would likely cost more than $4 million.

Complete Streets Athens’ take: This is a much needed pedestrian project in a historically underfunded area. Safe places to walk were high on the community’s list of priorities during the recent West Broad Feasibility Study and this project will dovetail with the ongoing Safe Routes to Schools project connecting Clarke Central with HT Edwards. TSPLOST funding represents an opportunity to leverage this funding to bring in additional resources to address the intersection of W. Broad, Hancock and the Plaza.

Of major concern is the potential for displacement of current residents. As a neighborhood becomes more walkable, land values and rental prices increase. An effort should be made to put measures in place to protect the long-term residents, many of whom are elderly and/or on fixed incomes, while allowing them to benefit from long needed improvements to their neighborhood.

Amount on ballot:  $4,000,000

Projects 14, 15, 16. Gateway corridor Improvements

These projects include funding for specific improvements, to be approved by M&C, to three gateway corridors. Improvements eligible for the funding include, but are not limited to, landscaped/concrete median(s), additional sidewalks, multi-use trail, separated bike lanes, and potential intersection improvements.

The most recent studies of these corridors are the Georgia Department of Transportation Road Safety Audit for Prince Avenue (October 2014) and the Urban Land Institute studies of Atlanta Highway (2013) and the Lexington Road (2015). This year the Mayor and Commission approved funding to hire a consultant to carry out more detailed studies of Atlanta Highway and Lexington Road.

The common theme of these studies is that beautification of the streetscapes and improved safety for all modes of transportation will be good for businesses along the corridors. Key conclusions of the respective studies:

Prince Avenue: “. . . one primary safety issue is that drivers do not observe the change in roadway characteristics as they proceed down Prince Avenue into downtown Athens. A gateway is needed to inform the driver that the speeds have decreased and the roadway has changed into an urban environment with significant bicycle and pedestrian volumes.”

Lexington Highway: “. . . one of the most important (and perhaps the easiest) things [Athens government] can do to breathe new life into the Corridor is to improve its appearance and functionality. The Panel recommends several approaches, including multi-use trails, tactical medians, a gateway feature and improved signage.”

Atlanta Highway: “By far, the most important element needed for the corridor is a collective, strong vision of where this area should be headed. . . . Engagement in discussion with commercial property owners should be a top priority.“

Complete Streets Athens’ take: We’ve been talking about improving our “gateway” corridors for over 20 years. If we really want to improve these avenues, we need to develop a vision and follow through with implementation. TSPLOST funding for these three corridors will enable us to begin to implement the changes recommended by consultants and advocated by the citizens of Athens.

 

Project 14: Lexington Hwy. Corridor Improvements

Project includes funding for intersection improvements at Winterville Rd, Gaines School Road, and Whit Davis Road.

Amount on ballot:  $4,000,000


Project 15: Atlanta Hwy. Corridor Improvements

Amount on ballot:  $4,000,000

Project 16: Prince Avenue Corridor Improvements

Project includes funding for intersection improvements at N. Milledge Ave., King Avenue, and Park Avenue / Talmadge Drive.

Amount on ballot:  $4,000,000

Project 17: Acquisition of Private Streets Project

This project includes the acquisition of private, ungated streets in need of repair that are to be dedicated for public use and ownership. Project may include the repair of those streets as nominated by Athens Clarke County Commissioners that are eligible for acquisition by Unified Government of Athens-Clarke County wherein the current owner(s) have all agreed to convey title by quit-claim deed or otherwise at no cost to the Unified Government of Athens-Clarke County. Once the streets are acquired, necessary preventive maintenance, road reconstruction, and rehabilitation activities for those streets may be completed to bring those streets up to ACC street standards.

Amount on ballot:  $340,000  

 

Project 18: City of Winterville

This project will provide for specific improvements identified by the Intergovernmental Agreement between the Unified Government of Athens-Clarke County, the City of Winterville, and the Town of Bogart. Sub-projects may include sidewalk improvements, other transportation infrastructure improvements, pavement rehabilitation, other transportation infrastructure improvements, and acquisition of associated right-of-way and/or easements. The specific sub-projects are selected and managed by the City of Winterville.

Amount on ballot:  $969,000

 

Project 19: Town of Bogart

This project will provide for specific improvements identified by the Intergovernmental Agreement between the Unified Government of Athens-Clarke County, the City of Winterville, and the Town of Bogart. Sub-projects may include sidewalk improvements, other transportation infrastructure improvements, and acquisition of associated right-of-way and/or easements. The specific sub-projects are selected and managed by the Town of Bogart.

Amount on ballot: $271,000