POOLER, Ga. (WSAV) — A half billion dollars is how much money the proposed penny sales tax would have provided to pay for what leaders say is much needed transportation improvements in Chatham County.
However, the failure of the Transportation Special Local Options Sales Tax (TSPLOST) referendum last week means that many of those projects won’t happen anytime soon.
Twenty-four million dollars of that money was slated for a major road widening project in the Pooler area. The aim was to ease traffic congestion on Benton Boulevard.
The TSPLOST referendum was narrowly rejected by voters, failing to pass by a little more than 1,380 votes. Thursday, many of the Chatham County residents WSAV spoke with said they were in support of the transportation tax and still want to see these issues addressed.
“They’re building up a lot and not expanding the roads,” Demeia said.
Benton Boulevard is a major road that runs through one of Pooler’s busiest shopping districts. Thousands of people travel it every day but right now many tell me they wish they could avoid it.
“The traffic is beastly. Everyday we go through it,” Vincent Best said.
“A three-minute, five-minute commute, it takes about 20 minutes to get home from here, from Walmart,” Demeia said.
But a possible solution to ease traffic has fallen through, after TSPLOST failed to pass in the midterm elections. Leaving many residents and supporters frustrated that some road expansion projects may not happen now.
“I was very disappointed, very disappointed,” Best said.
Best has lived in the Pooler area for eleven years and he voted in favor of the sales tax this November.
“It’s horrific, for people that live in the area, it takes forever to make a left turn on there, they need to widen it or do something,” Best said.
Had TSPLOST passed, Savannah would have received just over $24 million to pay for the widening of Benton Boulevard. This week Mayor Van Johnson talked about the failed referendum.
“TSPLOST, did not pass in the county although it passed in the city,” Johnson said. “They understood what we were trying to do for the Highlands, that the $24.5 million is our tier one project going to expand Benton Boulevard.”
The Highlands neighborhood isn’t the only area being impacted. Johnson said finding funding for improvement projects in Savannah will be difficult without TSPLOST.
“We are now tasked at trying to figure out a way to do these projects,” Johnson said. “It’s going to be difficult and it’s going to be expensive and the city is going to have limited means to secure those funds.”
WSAV spoke with Pooler Mayor Rebecca Benton. She said she’s disappointed that the referendum failed, adding that the city is going to continue to look for solutions to this issue. but without this funding, road widening projects like this one may not be possible.