In a preliminary heads-up before returning a vetted list, State Transportation Planner Todd Long told local officials he would be removing the proposed Pinhoti Connector Trail between Rome and Lyerly and the Silver Comet Trail link from Cedartown to Rome.
“He said everything else looked fine, but the trails seemed more like recreation,” Floyd County Manager Kevin Poe said.
Representatives of the 15-county region will choose a package from Long’s list to put before voters in 2012.
Chattooga County Sole Commissioner Jason Winters said he’s had some assurances the sidewalk projects making up the bulk of his county’s wish-list will remain in play. Sidewalks in downtown areas and along Ga. 100, Ga. 114 and U.S. 27 are essential to connect residential and commercial centers, he said.
“A lot of these are road-enhancement safety projects,” Winters said. “I can see preference being given to a sidewalk over a walking trail, and if we had to choose I would prefer the sidewalk.”
Still, officials were viewing the trail projects as an economic development boost.
The paved, 61-mile Silver Comet Trail runs from Smyrna to the Alabama state line near Cedartown and connects to Alabama’s 33-mile Chief Ladiga Trail to Anniston. The 335-mile Pinhoti Trail, from Blue Ridge in Georgia to east central Alabama, is the longest hiking trail in either state.
“If we’re not going to be able to look at that being funded through the package, I’d be interested in using the discretionary funds to get the trail in shape,” Winters said.
A 10-year T-SPLOST in Northwest Georgia would raise an estimated $1.2 billion. The state law calling for regional votes also provides that 25 percent of the revenue would be split among the counties for projects outside the package.
Floyd County and its cities could expect an estimated $3.1 million a year to share for local road projects. Chattooga residents could see $1.4 million a year and Polk could get $1.9 million in discretionary funds.
Other counties in the region are Bartow, Catoosa, Dade, Fannin, Gilmer, Gordon, Haralson, Murray, Paulding, Pickens, Walker and Whitfield. The rest of the state is divided into 11 other districts, which are making similar T-SPLOST plans.
The 15 counties in the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission district submitted draft project lists topping $2.6 billion combined.
David Howerin, planning director for the NWGRC, said Long is expected to return the pared-down list this month, and the district’s executive committee will have until Aug. 15 to craft a proposed package. Public hearings will be scheduled before the full transportation roundtable decides on a final list.
The package must be determined by Oct. 15 or the region will be declared “in gridlock.” No vote will be scheduled and any state transportation funding for the next decade will require a 50-percent local match.