August 24-- Starting in January shoppers in this area will start paying a penny more in sales tax to be used for road improvements. That's because voters in the 17-county Heart of Georgia-Altamaha region approved the tax in the July 31st referendum.
Only two other regions approved the measure and Todd Long, Deputy Commissioner with the Georgia Department of Transportation, says the DOT will administer the program for the three regions who approved it.
"Certainly we had hoped for more, but now we have to turn the page and we've got to move forward with those who did pass it in 46 out of 159 counties," he says.
Long was in Vidalia this week briefing area city and county officials on how the program willl work.
"Local governments need to understand how the discretionary money is going to work, how the regional projects will work, how delivery will work and how the money will be collected. This is the time to get in there and get your hands dirty and pull your sleeves up," he explained.
State officials estimate the region will fund $350 million in road projects over the next ten years. The project list includes 753 local projects and 11 regional projects.
The first distribution of the sales tax dollars should start in March, 2013 and Long believes work could start soon thereafter.
"It's a pay-as-you-go system so you won't see all of them out in the first couple of a years. It's going to be a steady stream over a ten-year period. Some of these projects are very easy and there's not a lot of complicated engineering so I think you'll start seeing projects right away," he says.