AT A GLANCE:
If the majority of voters in the 10-county Atlanta Region and the city of Atlanta approve the July 31 referendum establishing a 1 percent transportation sales tax:
-- Approximately $6.14 billion is expected to be collected over the next 10 years;
-- Sales tax in Rockdale County is expected to generate about $104 million;
-- Four transportation projects in the amount of $94.3 million would be completed in Rockdale County between 2013 and 2019.
CONYERS -- Voters who head to the polls on July 31 to cast a ballot in the primary election will also have a chance to vote on a referendum that will establish a new sales tax to help fund transportation projects.
"I think that most people would agree these projects need to be built; the question is, do you think this is the right mechanism for building these projects," said Jim Jaquish, senior communications coordinator with the Atlanta Regional Commission.
-- What is T-SPLOST
The state Legislature passed the Transportation Investment Act in 2010 that would establish regional sales taxes if the majority of voters in those regions approve referenda to establish a 1 percent sales tax.
Voters in each of the state's 12 regional districts will be voting on a T-SPLOST to fund transportation projects in their respective districts. For example, Newton County is in the Northeast Georgia Region, and voters there will decide whether to impose a 1 percent sales tax for projects that will impact that region.
Rockdale County is in the Atlanta Region, which includes Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry and Rockdale counties and the city of Atlanta.
If the majority of voters within a region approve the referendum, the sales tax will go into effect in 2013.
-- How were the project lists created?
State economists predict that $6.14 billion will be generated in the Atlanta Region over 10 years by the sales tax, Jaquish said. The funds will be used for transportation projects throughout the 10-county region and the city of Atlanta.
As a result of the Transportation Investment Act, a roundtable of representatives from each county was established to develop the list of projects to be funded by the sales tax.
The Atlanta Region's roundtable consists of 21 members: each county's commission chairman and one mayor from a city within the county. The mayor of Atlanta was also included.
Jaquish said each jurisdiction had a wish list that was ultimately whittled from $23 billion to just over $6.1 billion
"One of the criteria is that the project list would be geographically balanced as much as possible," Jaquish said.
In other words, he said, the amount of revenue raised in one city or county may not equal the amount of transportation projects to be completed within that jurisdiction's borders.
In 11 of the state's regions, 75 percent of the funds raised from the sales tax will be used for the regional projects and 25 percent will be divided among the cities and counties for local projects.
The split for the Atlanta Region, however, is 85 percent for regional projects and 15 percent for local ones.
Rockdale County is expected to generate $104 million over the course of 10 years and should receive $94.3 million in road projects, making Rockdale what some would call a "donor county."
"When you look at just the projects built within their borders, quite a few counties would be considered donor counties," Jaquish said. "But if you look at all the projects that will benefit people going into Gwinnett or Atlanta or the (Hartsfield-Jackson) Airport, there are lots of other projects out there that will benefit them."
For example, improvements are slated at four interstate interchanges -- Spaghetti Junction, I-75/I-85, I-285/Ga. 400 and I-285/I-20 -- which will improve traffic coming in and out of Atlanta.
"(The roundtable) did discuss trying to keep things balanced, but they also realized that to build regional projects, they had to look more at what benefits that county's commuters than what is within the county," he said.-- What are Rockdale's projects?
According to the Atlanta Regional Roundtable's final investment list, four projects are within Rockdale County's borders. Those include: extending Sigman Road to Hayden Quarry Road in DeKalb County; widening Sigman Road from two to four lanes between Lester Road and Dogwood Drive; constructing a non-access bridge over I-20; and widening Flat Shoals Road to four lanes between Salem and Old Salem roads.
-- How will funds be distributed
Jaquish said if passed, the state would begin collecting revenue from the transportation sales tax in January. Projects are scheduled to occur in three bands: Band 1 to begin in 2013-2015; Band 2 to begin between 2016-2019; and Band 3 sometime between 2020-2022.
The widening of Sigman Road and Flat Shoals Road are Band 1 projects and the non-access bridge and Sigman Road extension are in Band 2.
The projects will be completed on a pay-as-you-go basis, Jaquish said.
The money will be collected by the Georgia Department of Revenue, which will then send the funds to the Georgia State Financing & Investment Commission. The Georgia Department of Transportation will be responsible for making sure road projects are built on time and on budget; the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority (GRTA) will oversee transit projects are completed.
Jaquish said a citizen's review panel will be established that is to provide oversight of all the projects. The group will establish a website and report to the Georgia General Assembly annually.