Catoosa commissioners plan to use new tax to pay for bridge over Graysville road tracks

    (Image: WTVC)

    UPDATE (Tuesday, March 19):

    Catoosa County election officials say a county-wide tax increase vote has failed, the purpose of which would have paid for a bridge over the Graysville Road train tracks.

    The final results had 77.55% of votes for No on the tax, with only 22.45% of votes for Yes. We are working to confirm the total number of votes cast.

    See more at the link here.

    ORIGINAL STORY (March 12):

    Tuesday, Catoosa County commissioners proposed a possible fix to an age-old problem.

    They want to use the money from a proposed sale tax increase in the county to build a bridge over the railroad tracks on Graysville Road.

    For years, trains have caused major delays for anyone trying to get to East Brainerd Road from Graysville Road.

    Commissioners just announced a plan to build a bridge to bypass the railroad tracks.

    Extended delays on Graysville Rd. can be frustrating for commuters, but Catossa County Sheriff Gary Sisk say emergency vehicles often get stuck here.

    Sometimes that's a matter of life and death.

    "It's a pretty big undertaking, for that problem, but what price do you put on emergency assistance and possibly someone's life?" said Sheriff Sisk.

    Today he applauded these commissioner's efforts.

    Sheriff Sisk says his deputies frequently get stuck at the crossing for 15 minutes or more.

    Sometimes, police officers are forced take a 45 minute detour around the tracks, or call on agencies from Hamilton County.

    "It's a problem that's been going on for 40 plus years and I am very proud we've got a board that's addressed this and that we've finally got a method to address the problem," said Chairman Steven Henry.

    However, not everyone is on board with these building efforts.

    To fund the project, the county needs to increase sales tax, county-wide by one percent.

    "For a person making $40,000 a year that's going to be a $200 tax increase for them. And that's our issue. We don't need be giving the government all this money when they already have a lot of money to use," said Sarah Wade, a Catoosa County resident.

    She agrees that safety is a concern on Graysville Rd. However, they say existing funds should be used to build the bridge, not a new tax.

    Meanwhile, other county officials. like Superintendent of Schools Denia Reese, say this measure will also benefit students in the school system.

    "We have had a bus loaded with students be stuck at the crossing for almost two hours in the past when mechanical difficulties are happening at the tracks," said Reese.

    Commissioners say this problem is expected to get worse as the community surrounding Graysville Road expands.

    Commissioners say they can only build this bridge if the tax increase passes.

    If the tax known as TSPLOST or Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, fails they say they will not have enough funds to build it.

    Voters have until March 19 to cast their ballots on the measure.

    It would increase the sales tax for residents from 7% to 8%.

    Commissioners estimate the bridge project would cost between 12 and 14 million dollars to complete.

    This is a developing story, depend on us to update it as we learn more.

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