Located at MLK Jr. Blvd. and Montgomery Street, the I-16 flyover has been designated as one of the nine projects to be funded by T-SPLOST. And according to the breakdown of Chatham County’s T-SPLOST dollars, the tax will fund roughly $22 million of the flyover removal project.
But according to the Civic Master plan developed by the Metropolitan Planning Commission, the approximate cost for implementing the preferred concept they have chosen to replace the flyover is $37,200,000.
The MPC anticipates that the infrastructure phase of the I-16 ramp removal project will be completed by the year 2018, two years before the funds from the tax will even be available to fund the project.
Whether the additional $15 million will be funded by redevelopment projects of private investors is yet to be determined.
Over the last month, Savannah City Council members have been presenting a series of Town Hall meetings to residents of their appointed districts, addressing the flyover removal and other T-SPLOST funded initiatives.
Local control has been one of the more important aspects of the tax, especially where the citizens’ reception of the referendum is concerned. It is true that local pennies will fund local projects, but Chatham County has also been pegged as a donor county for Region 12.
“We do have local control,” Mary Ellen Sprague, alderman of District 4 said. “We haven’t had that local control before.”
The city is also referred to as the “economic hub” of the region, speculated as generating enough money from the tax to support both the projects of Chatham County and portions of projects in the other nine counties in the coastal region.
Donor county information was removed from the presentation after the first of the Town Hall meetings in District 2.
The city pays 10 percent of all resurfacing projects with the state providing us with $900,000 annually and expects Savannah to kick in another $100,000. In the event that T-SPLOST does fail the city will need to pick up 30 percent of the tab, a 20 percent increase.
From district to district citizens question the fact that there seems to be no Plan B, and the city council has emphasized that if T-SPLOST does fail, the hostess city will be held accountable.
Located just south of the shadow of the I-16 flyover sits the Diaspora Marketplace, a business that has been selling traditional African goods to the city of Savannah for 11 years. Owner Richard Shinhoster is a lifetime resident of Savannah, as was his brother, Earl T. Shinhoster.
“Earl was at one time the acting national president of the NAACP,” said Shinhoster. “He was in an automobile accident in 2000. One of our state legislators got the state transportation department to name this flyover, this bridge, for him. So it carries his name.”
On Thursday, Shinhoster, the first president of the Savannah Branch of the NAACP, publicly endorsed the passing of the T-SPLOST tax.
“We do not want to hinder progress using his name,” laughed Shinhoster. “We wanted to make sure that we were clear that we would be in favor of tearing it down because of the significance of this corridor.”
The core of the debate rests on whether citizens are prepared to commit to a decade of an additional 1 percent sales tax.
“If you look at it, everybody is running from it, “ says John Sawyer, the presenter of each Town Hall meeting slideshow and the director of Water and Sewer. “Everybody, including the general public, is trying to pass the buck.”
Polls are open until 7 p.m. July 31.
For poll information, go to http://elections.chathamcounty.org/Contact Shannon Craig.