This Wednesday March 2 from 7-9pm there will be an opening meeting on projects for the new T-SPLOST referendum in 2012.
The T-SPLOST will be the classic political conundrum for the Athens area in 2012. Just like Atlanta, almost all the traffic problems center around the city center, but many of the voters live in the surrounding suburbs. The true answer to congestion would be less sprawl and more public transit, but that does not appeal to suburban voters. In other words, Oconee County is not going to approve a new tax to pay for Athens Transit and more Greenways in Athens – and yet, wider roads in Oconee lead to the sprawl that creates more and more congestion.
ACC officials, TSPLOST advisors, and citizen input will have to perform some amazing political calculus to list projects that are actually helpful (ie, projects already defined by the planners down at NEGRC) and projects that are visible and easy to sell, but not necessarily helpful (ie, 4-laning Lexington Road out to Oglethorpe County).
The new tax is vital, because of the tri-squeeze of deteriorating existing infrastructure, population growth, and the toxic topic of raising the gas tax, which is supposed to provide capital funding for roads.
So far Atlanta has gotten a lot of press, but Athens is in the same situation (not to mention any regional tie-ins with Atlanta such as commuter rail or 316 upgrades) and will have to perform some amazing political balance. Come out and give your two cents this Wednesday!