ALPHARETTA, Ga. — City officials are weighing how best to spend the last of a dwindling pool of transportation sales tax money expected over the next year and a half.
With millions at stake, the Alpharetta City Council should decide soon which projects will get the green light and which sit idle, waiting for another source of funding.
Speaking at a recent City Council workshop, City Administrator Bob Regus said the coronavirus pandemic has lowered expectations for how much the tax will bring in over the final year of its term. When passed by voters in 2016, it was projected the transportation tax — or TSPLOST — would provide between $55-$62 million in revenues for Alpharetta over its five-year term. Some estimates put the figure as high as $72 million.
Regus said updated projections now show collections will probably total around $52 million by time the tax ends in March 2022. That leaves about $25 million in unencumbered funds, he said.
The council heard from Public Works Director Pete Sewczwicz who outlined four major TSPLOST projects in need of funding. The purpose of the presentation, he said, was to get some sense of which projects should receive priority for the limited dollars available.
The first project, and coming in at an estimated $20 million, is improvements to Webb Bridge Road from the Big Creek Greenway east to Webb Bridge Park near Kimball Bridge Road. It calls for 10.5-foot travel lanes from the Greenway to Webb Bridge Way, with 6-inch header curbs, 4-foot bike lanes and 3-foot beauty strips.
Sewczwicz asked the council to consider increasing the beauty strip width to 6 feet, which would allow for simple tree landscaping, but would require more right of way.
“We believe that long term, it would be a better-quality project,” Sewczwicz said.
The second project is improvements to Webb Bridge Road from the Greenway west to Morris Road at a cost of from $10-$12 million. The project, which was originally estimated at around $8 million, has yet to be designed. It includes resurfacing Webb Bridge from Morris Road to North Point Parkway and planting street trees for landscaping. It also calls for replacement of the bridge over Big Creek, possibly by adding a temporary bridge while replacing the existing structure.
The third project, with an estimated cost of $2.8 million, involves improvements to Academy Street near the Alpharetta Presbyterian Church at Loxford Lane east to near Westside Parkway. It calls for a 2-foot-wide median strip, a 6-foot sidewalk on the north side and a 3-foot striped shoulder to accommodate bike traffic.
The final project is a shared effort with Johns Creek for widening 2 miles of Haynes Bridge Road to four lanes from Mansell Road to Old Alabama Road. Work would include accommodations for pedestrians and bicyclists. Originally estimated at $10 million, Sewczwicz said current estimates have pushed the price to around $16 million. The new estimate does not include any feature to improve safety and easy access into and out of the Haynes Forest subdivision, he said.
Sewczwicz offered a couple of plans to improve access to the subdivision, each with high-dollar price tags. One of the plans, drawn by outside engineers, drew the attention of Councilman John Hipes, who called for an end to spending money on additional plans.
“We can run thin, and never do any of these, or we can get something done,” he said. “Let’s spend our money on something and get something done, rather than just designing the heck out of five different segments of roads with insufficient funds to do them.”
Mayor Jim Gilvin recommended suspending further spending on any of the projects until the council can set a priority list.