Follow up on today’s column about proposed T-SPLOST, I-16 flyover removal

In my City Talk column today, I focused on two issues:

  • the shaky status of the I-16 flyover removal, which didn’t quite make the cut for funding via the proposed sales tax for transportation that is part of the state’s new funding method for regional projects.
  • and the serious doubts about whether those referendums will actually pass in 2012, when they are certain to run up against all sorts of anti-tax opposition.

I am not going to recap all those complex issues here.

But I do want to make another point. The funded projects, which can be found in detail in this document (no, it’s here) on the Metropolitan Planning Commission website, include some that would sure benefit urban Savannah residents, such as millions for transit funding (both new busses and operational funding for them). Improvements to West Bay and West Gwinnettand 52nd St. are also slated for funding. And who doesn’t think we need new bridges with safe shoulders on Highway 80 between Savannah and Tybee?

Still, look at this map this map from the Transportation Improvement Program:

There are no projects in the center of the city (beyond some of the transit funding mentioned above). The one major proposed project — the removal of the I-16 flyover that did not make the short list the TIA shortlist and that is not on the TIP map — is an anomaly in some respects. It doesn’t involve increasing capacity, but reworking the end of I-16 in ways that will help restore a neighborhood.

And, as Chatham County commissioner Pat Shay mentioned in the email I cited in the column, the bulk of the projects on the above map deal with suburban-style development — with “automobility.” “Cheap” suburban living brings incredibly high public costs to maintain and to create transportation infrastructure to handle traffic at peak commute times. And not enough suburban residents factor in the gasoline costs that they’ll face for those long commutes.

I don’t know whether T-SPLOST could pass in November 2012, but I’m certain it would fail in July 2012 during the Republican primary (the current scheduled date). And I fundamentally reject the cynical ploy of referendums like this to fund infrastructure that is allegedly “critical”. If the work needs to be done, then it’s the job of government officials to do it — and to convince voters that it is needed. Nevertheless, this is the system we’ve been given, so I’m not going to say no just on political principle.

While there are lots of uncertainties in all this, I’m quite certain that I’ll vote against the T-SPLOST next year if the I-16 flyover removal is not part of the list.

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