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$31M for road relief in works
County wants to accelerate efforts
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Forsyth County News

Forsyth County commissioners have dedicated $31 million to speed up some road projects in south Forsyth.

The commission voted 5-0 on Tuesday to pull remaining funds from the last round of the 1-cent sales tax program and advance projects from the current tax with county reserves to relieve congested traffic and pay for maintenance.

The funding will pay for a $13 million widening Union Hill and Mullinax roads, an $11 million widening of the southern-most and northern-most portions of Old Atlanta Road and the remaining $7 million for repaving and maintenance needs.

County finance director David Gruen said the projects would all ultimately be funded through the sales tax program, but only $15 million is currently available through savings and unallocated money in the previous special purpose local option sales tax, or SPLOST VI.

Another $12 million would be advanced from county reserves, which would still allow Forsyth to maintain at least 25 percent of its budget in savings according to the policy, Gruen said.

Then $4 million could be drawn from incoming SPLOST VII funds.

The widening projects have an estimated completion of mid-2016, he said, which means some current sales tax funding should come in by then.

The first $100 million collected in the program was designated for the courthouse and jail construction, which put transportation projects on the tail end of the program.

At their previous work session, commissioners directed staff to find ways to fund priority projects soon, providing relief for heavily traveled roads.

Mullinax and Old Atlanta were identified as the two immediate needs, but on Tuesday, Castleberry Road joined the discussion.

Commissioner Brian Tam said the road has had five fatalities in five years, and improvements are needed.

Responding to a question, county engineer John Cunard said Castleberry Road could be ready to start construction sooner because the right of way has been acquired, which is not the case with the other projects.

Commissioner Todd Levent said there’s no reason to rush the Castleberry project.

“The traffic numbers do not support it,” Levent said. “Why would you dig in your reserve account for that?”

Castleberry has been on the sales tax referendums for SPLOST V, VI and VII with debate as to whether to widen to four lanes, as originally envisioned, or make safety improvements such as straightening out curves and adding turn lanes.

The needed property has been purchased for a four-lane project, but the traffic volumes haven’t reached the projections.