The theme was managing growth and infrastructure improvements at the county’s latest Transportation Summit on Thursday, Oct. 13.
The summit featured panelists such as Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner Russell McMurry, Rep. Rick Jasperse, Forsyth County Board of Commissioners Chairman Alfred John and Carter Patterson with the Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce. The event was held at Browns Bridge Church.
County Manager Kevin Tanner also spoke, sharing with the crowd that between April of 2010 and July of 2019, Forsyth County’s population grew at a “staggering 39 percent rate.”
“And that growth is not slowing,” Tanner said.
Panelists and county officials also spoke about infrastructure improvements, including current projects, future plans and possible funding sources.
Assistant County Manager David McKee said in a video that there are numerous infrastructure projects happening around the county that will hopefully be completed soon.
The Post Road improvements, which the Department of Transportation has allocated about $62 million for, will be going into right-of-way acquisition by the end of the year and then onto construction.
The Ronald Reagan Boulevard extension is still on track to be completed late next year, McKee said. The south part of the road is “at grade,” meaning the gravel or asphalt has been elevated to where it is supposed to be.
“There is an end in sight” for the interchange at Hwy. 369 and Ga. 400 as well, McKee said. Soon the traffic on Hwy. 369 will be shifted to the bridge above Ga. 400 and exit ramps will open. The Hwy. 369 widening project is being worked on in tandem with the interchange.
A new exit on Ga. 400 is coming to McGinnis Ferry Road as well as a widening of the road from SR. 85 to Ga. 400.
The Old Atlanta Road widening is going into its last two phases of construction very soon.
McKee said the county has a 10-year plan to relieve congestion.
“We feel like we’re doing a good job. We’re doing the best we can keeping up with growth,” McKee said.
“Thank you for being patient and we ask for your patience. We understand there’s a lot of … roadways under construction.”
Story continues below.
During panel discussion, Chairman Alfred John revealed that Hwy. 306, or Keith Bridge Road, would be getting necessary improvements in the future, including widening from two lanes to four from Ga. 400 to Hammonds Crossing.
“That is a vitally, vitally important project,” John said.
He mentioned there would be other road improvements coming to north Forsyth as the area is rapidly growing with residential and commercial development.
Conversations about widening Fowler Road on the west side of the county have also been had, he said, as there are two schools on the road that cause traffic.
But above all, John said that people are wanting connectivity.
John said that 2020 and 2021 showed us that more people are wanting to get outside and connect with friends and family in different ways, wishing to “walk and bike … to adjacent subdivisions” and parks.
He said plans were being made to install more sidewalks throughout the county. However, one mile of sidewalk can cost $1 million, he said, as right-of-way has to be purchased and utilities need to be moved.
Story continues below.
While Tanner said there are multiple ways to find infrastructure projects, such as raising millage rates, property bonds and taking from the county’s general fund, but none were as efficient as a Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.
“Come November, we’re all going to have an opportunity to do something about transportation,” Carter Patterson said. “We can sit on our hands and hope that somebody will magically come out of the sky and fix our roads, or we can take the bull by the horns … and take responsibility for our transportation needs.”
According to Tanner, the TSPLOST would be a “one cent sales tax” that would be “paid by anyone spending money here in Forsyth County.”
“The tax would not fall solely on county property owners,” Tanner said.
The TSPLOST will be on the Nov. 8 ballot Tanner said and revenue generated from it would be solely for transportation improvements, such as the projects mentioned by John.