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Sales tax lines drawn
County bears most of region's needs, projects
Road WEB 2
Cumming Mayor H. Ford Gravitt stands at the crossing of Hwy. 20 and Kelly Mill Road during a recent rush hour. The intersection is one of many projects on a list of improvements that would be funded by a 1 percent sales tax up for vote July 31. - photo by Tom Reed - FCN regional staff
Forsyth County could be the poster child for road improvements in the Georgia Mountains region.Facing so many transportation needs in every part of the county, the challenge early on for government officials was trying to decide which of its many projects would wind up on the 13-county region’s projects list for the July 31 transportation sales tax vote.The list was pared to 21 projects, with some $293 million in funding coming from the 1 percent sales tax over 10 years, if approved. Only Hall County, with a slightly higher population in the 2010 census, has more project funding at nearly $300 million.“A lot of the road [projects] are in the southern part of the county, because that’s the largest sector of our population and where they have traffic backups during the week,” said Cumming Mayor Ford Gravitt, who served on the 26-member Georgia Mountains roundtable that approved the final projects list.Forsyth’s biggest project involves adding a single occupancy vehicle lane in each direction on Ga. 400 from McFarland Parkway to Hwy. 20, work that is estimated to cost: $72.9 million.The sales tax would pay for about $40 million of the project, with the remaining $32.9 million expected to come from federal and state gas tax money.If approved, sales tax collection would begin Jan. 1, with projects built in one of three time frames: 2013-15, 2016-19 and 2020.The widening of Ga. 400 — a key North Georgia corridor extending from Lumpkin County to Interstate 85 in Buckhead — would take place between 2013 and 2015.“There is nothing more important than the widening of Ga. 400,” said James McCoy, president and CEO of Cumming/Forsyth Chamber of Commerce, in an interview with The Times of Gainesville during a May 21 visit to Forsyth. “Just this morning, traffic was backed up well into Dawson County.”That type of traffic “has a direct impact on our ability to do business in this community, and it’s a huge quality of life issue,” he added.Overall, McCoy is pleased with Forsyth’s proposed projects, a mingling of road widenings, intersection improvements, sidewalk installations and public transit expansion.“It captures a nice cross-section and it’s very reflective of the needs and some of the highest priorities in terms of congestion and economic impact,” he said.In a walking tour, Gravitt pointed out areas of improvement around downtown Cumming, Forsyth’s county seat and lone municipality.“This is where everybody comes to do business,” said Gravitt, who, as a Cumming native and longtime mayor, has watched the once-rural area transform into a bustling Atlanta suburb.“It’s a little different than it would be if several cities were strewn throughout [the county],” he added.