T-SPLOST Lunch and Learn report by Matt Portwood

Received this morning. -jsq
Today’s [yesterday now] T-SPLOST Lunch and Learn was the final event in the city’s
community planning month. The event was hosted by Corey Hull who taught the basics of the state’s 1% transportation sales tax. Hull’s powerpoint presentation was apparently the same one he’d spoken on several times before. As a result there was no new information. However, the presentation was revealing to me, as I’ve not been following the state’s T-SPLOST plans.

Hull spoke for roughly 40 minutes then opened the floor for Q&A. The audience quickly split between enthusiastic supporters and opponents. One supporter, a member of the Berrien County Chamber of Commerce vented her frustration over the number of businesses that will be leaving her county due to crumbling roads and out of touch freight centers. As she argued, T-SPLOST would allow a smaller community like Nashville to reduce the need for its citizens to travel to Valdosta to shop, providing a much needed boost to the local economy. One man, a strong opponent of the tax plan, described it as simply a “redistribution of wealth.” As he explained, if the T-SPLOST plan were to pass following the July 2012 vote it would only hurt local business owners. Furthermore he claimed that if local municipalities were to take responsibility for state and federal highway management, local governments would retain the costs in the long term.

Hull seemed reluctant to challenge either audience member. Instead he focused on highlighting the basics of the plan. This included explaining the basics of the 75% regional revenue pot and the 25% local discretionary pot. The approved project list that Hull passed out included plans for improvements to the Five Points intersection, a St. Augustine Road overpass, and widening of Jerry Jones Road. Hull explained that this would include both Jerry Jones and Eager Road. I asked Hull about Larry Hanson’s statement concerning the City of Valdosta’s rule that all road widening projects include a bike lane. Corey Hull explained that the road improvements to Jerry Jones would include a bike lane which would link to the lanes already on Melody Lane and Lankford Dr. This would create a bike lane from St. Augustine Road to N. Oak Street.


Corey’s slides are on the SGRC web pages. The problem with T-SPLOST is that it forces communities like Nashville and Valdosta to all vote on projects that don’t have much relation, with penalities for not voting yes. The mayor of Nashville is the chair of the steering committee, and even he complained that if they didn’t turn in a list of projects by a given time, there was a penalty for that. These penalties are reductions in state transportation funding for other existing projects. For that matter, why should the Jerry Jones bike lane be tied to the Old US 41 N widening boondoggle that went from $8M to $12M in two months? No one will tell us who raised it or why, nor who made all these other wild swings in estimated costs. Meanwhile $7.5M for a bus system from Wiregrass Tech to southside, from Moody to the Mall, by way of VSU, VHS, and LHS, has vanished from the list.

Anyway, regarding yesterday’s event, according to Corey Hull, the City of Valdosta was going to video it and Corey will advertise when it will appear on the City’s TV channel. For those of us who don’t get that channel, there is some unknown level of possibility the videos may be on the web.