Congratulations to the people of Athens-Clarke County for the overwhelming support of T-SPLOST on the November ballot. Not only did the measure pass by a nearly 3-1 margin, it passed in every precinct in every district. The T-SPLOST vote represents a conscious decision by voters to make a substantial investment in bike/pedestrian infrastructure, which will in and of itself be transformational for Athens-Clarke County. That every project is estimated to be completed within six-and-a-half years means that we will see actual results while we can still remember the vote!
I would like to applaud the T-SPLOST Citizens Advisory Committee, the mayor and commissioners, staff and citizens of Athens-Clarke for a job well done; and to also make the point that the transformational aspect can easily be magnified as we move ahead.
During a recent edition of “Athens News Matters,” T-SPLOST Citizens Advisory Committee chair Alice Kinman remarked that compiling the project list was made easier by previous efforts from other groups, many of which are public-private partnerships with significant citizen participation, such as Firefly Trail, Inc. and the Rail-Trail Committee, the Oconee River Greenway Commission, the “Athens in Motion” Bike/Ped Master Plan committee and the collaborative group looking at options for the West Broad neighborhood. That the T-SPLOST initiative passed by such a wide margin throughout the county is, in my opinion, directly related to the fact that there was buy-in from the citizens involved in each of these projects, and that the public at large was aware of and/or participated in some aspect of drafting these plans.
Which brings me to how, moving forward, we can magnify the transformation these T-SPLOST projects will bring: Five of the projects included in the T-SPLOST package are “buckets” of funding: for corridor improvements on Lexington Highway, Atlanta Highway and Prince Avenue; implementation of forthcoming recommendations of Athens in Motion; and pedestrian improvements in the West Broad neighborhood. It is imperative that the Mayor and Commission include the public in setting implementation priorities within each of these projects.
Some of these areas have been studied extensively; others have consultants hired or studies underway. Regardless of how or when studies have been conducted, citizens should be included in deciding how spending on these projects should be prioritized.
A community-driven process from start to finish—that will be transformational!