Forsyth takes initiative on road fixes

It is no secret that Forsyth County is a great place in which to live, work, play and retire. From its top-tier educational system, innovative park and recreation amenities, to its thriving health care marketplace, Forsyth County continues to maintain its position as one of the nation’s most desirable communities. As we experience the opportunities associated with growth, we are not immune to the challenges. One of the first requirements of industry and one of the primary indicators of a high quality of life is an ability to travel without the threat of stifling traffic. While many communities struggle with the issue of traffic, Forsyth County is emerging as a model for local transportation improvements that embrace innovative partnerships with both the state and federal government through taxpayer-approved bonds and matching funds. On election day last month, voters in Forsyth County delivered a strong message by passing a $200 million transportation bond, with a 63 percent majority. That message: we will work to keep our tax dollars at home, where they belong. The road to realizing a successful bond measure was paved with hard work, determination and a strong commitment to finding solutions that fostered unity among leaders, business owners, homeowners and other key stakeholders. In collaboration withState Rep. Mark Hamilton, (R-Cumming), Georgia Department of Transportation member Rudy Bowen and other leaders, the leadership of the Forsyth County commissioners worked for more than a year to identify priority projects aimed at reducing gridlock and fostering continued economic development. In total, the $200 million bond includes more than $90 million in additional matching funds from the state and federal governments. Through the more than yearlong process of conceptualization to passage, several key lessons were learned, including:

  • Voters must feel trust. Offering one of the lowest millage rates in the region and boasting a AAA bond rating, the Forsyth County government has worked to earn the trust of taxpayers. This was integral to the passage of Forsyth County's transportation bond. The approval by voters echoed their desire to keep tax dollars local.
  • Leaders must show confidence. As a three-term member of the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners, I can affirm that it is difficult to achieve unity. However, as a board we strived to work with local community leaders, homeowners and state leadership to develop a project list that was ultimately approved by the board of commissioners in a landmark unanimous vote. In order for voters to have confidence in a bond measure, those they trust must demonstrate confidence also.
  • Transportation improvements lead to economic prosperity. Every day, Forsyth County and Georgia compete with surrounding communities and states in attracting new, high-quality, high-paying jobs that provide critical employment opportunities and help balance the tax digest. In order for us to remain competitive, we must continue working toward reaching common-sense solutions to the problems plaguing our transportation infrastructure.

As Forsyth County homeowners continued to feel the pressures associated with residential development, some opposed to the bond believed it would only lead to additional residential growth. Therefore, the bond needed to offer something more: the promise of a thriving economy that would help balance our local tax digest and ease the tax burden placed on homeowners. By widening Georgia 400, adding a $43 million extension of Ronald Reagan Boulevard and constructing an interchange at McGinnis Ferry Road and Georgia 400, the bond offered voters a fast track to perpetual economic prosperity. To our governor’s credit, he did not tax us out of the recession. But with the failure of the T-SPLOST, communities and regions must begin to think critically about how to improve our roads for families and businesses. In Forsyth County, the solution is widening Georgia 400 and making numerous other critical improvements — all through a voter-approved bond and matching funds that may have otherwise gone to other regions. Whatever the solution, the issue of transportation must be solved in order for our state to reach its full potential.