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Why TSPLOST got splattered

By Walter Geiger The TSPLOST referendum failed miserably in all but three regions of Georgia as well it should have. Addressing the state’s transportation needs based on multi-county regions in which most counties had nothing in common with the others was flawed – and, it says here – doomed from the start. The only real cheerleaders for TSPLOST were government types, those in the heavy equipment and other businesses which would have benefitted from massive construction projects and the commuter rail pipe dream crowd. And, even they did a poor job selling the product. I never saw any coverage of anything even remotely resembling a citizens’ rally for TSPLOST outside Atlanta where the masses wanted more for the mess that is MARTA. It was a big government, big industry, big spender project. Voters saw through the subterfuge and easily recognized it as such. No one ever really explained where much of the money would go. We had lists of projects but no guarantee that any of them would have been completed during the 10-year TSPLOST shelf life. It was an unspoken certainty that the tax would have to have been extended for another 10 years to complete the work. Why? No one could put an accurate projection on planning and engineering costs and the cost of all the needed environmental clearances needed to do large projects today. There were also huge sums tied up in contract implementation and oversight fees and consulting costs. Georgians are not idiots. They see just as many vehicles from the consulting firm Moreland Altobelli and Associates (Moreland being former DOT commissioner Tom Moreland) as they do DOT trucks at construction sites. Pike countians would have gotten four roads widened and resurfaced for their yes vote. Lamar countians would have gotten Hwy. 36 four-laned to Thomaston but the region’s own TSPLOST administrator admitted all the engineering on that project done just six or seven years ago would be thrown out and redone by consultants, no doubt. Then there was the commuter rail component – money to implement rapid rail service linking Macon and Atlanta. I was at the Barnesville Depot years ago when Gov. Joe Frank Harris’ transportation director promised us we would ride the train to the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. That train didn’t run and it never will. If TSPLOST resurfaces, the regions should be smaller – say, Lamar, Pike and Upson – with all the money collected in those counties staying in those counties. That I could vote for. Any other proposal, particularly one funding rapid rail, is a boondoggle and should be rejected outright. Walter Geiger is editor and publisher of The Herald Gazette.

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