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T-SPLOST project lists finalized
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Regional officials have finished crafting a $740 million T-SPLOST list, which would give Newton County $140 million for transportation projects from 2012 to 2022.

County chairmen and mayors from the 12-county Northeast Georgia Regional Commission approved the list last week, which will now be shown and explained to residents at a series of public hearings around the region.

Newton residents will have a chance to ask questions about T-SPLOST at 6 p.m., Sept. 22 at Georgia Perimeter College. The list of projects for all regions around the state are available at The public referendum on the regional one-cent sales tax will take place either during the July primary or the November 2012 general election.

Regional leaders trimmed the list from 132 projects down to 69, and Newton County had a similar cut, ending up with 7 our of its initial 19 projects. The only significant project Newton lost was the $15 million widening of Ga. Highway 142, from Alcovy Road to I-20 east.

Despite the reduction, Newton ended up with its three largest projects, the widenings of the Covington ByPass, Crowell and Salem roads at a total bill of $113 million.

Around 25,000 drivers travel on Salem Road daily, while the ByPass Road sees 20,000 cars a day and Crowell Road sees between 15,000 to 18,000 cars, said Chairman Kathy Morgan.

All three roads would be expanded from two-lane highways (one way each way) to four-lane highways. The recommended maximum daily traffic for a two-lane highway is 15,000 cars.

"All these are way over the traffic limits and some of them are almost doubled. We felt these roads were the best return on investment," Morgan said. "All three corridors are important connectors and all three have commercial and economic development components."

Another major road project is the $8.5 million widening of Brown Bridge Road.

While the majority of projects are in western Newton County, where traffic is the worst, Newton will also get $20 million in discretionary spending, which Morgan said could be used to improve roads in the rest of the county.

The region would collect slightly less than $1 billion in sales, with 75 percent of those dollars going to a set list, and the remaining 25 percent being divided between counties (based on population and miles of road) for discretionary road projects.

Officials will be pushing this list hard because there is no back up plan for improving roads. Although the public will be hesitant to vote for another tax, a failure to pass this referendum means major road projects will not be completed because the state simply doesn't have the money it used to.