Smith County roads and bridges are getting a makeover after voters passed a $39.5 million road and bridge bond on Tuesday. Commissioners said the bond will help with congestion and improve safety.

"You don't build a road for today. You build a road for the next 20 to 30 years," said Smith County Commissioner Jeff Warr. "Many of our roads were built 70 or 80 years ago and have very little base. They certainly wouldn't pass today's specs."

Warr said as the county continues to grow, they have to accommodate developments.

The bond passed with 4,411 votes, or 73 percent. Twenty-seven percent, or 1,629 people, voted against it.

Warr said this is the first comprehensive road and bridge plan from the county, and the planning started in 2015.

To figure out how much remodeling was needed, the county hired engineers to analyze the condition of each road. Smith County Judge Nathaniel Moran said the study is how the county came up with a six year plan, costing roughly $100 million.

The project will be completed in two phases. Phase one is the $39.5 million bond, and covers the first three years of the plan.

Moran said those in opposition did not want any debt for the county, but he said there was no way around it.
The county has been putting $3-4 million from the reserve fund annually towards roads and bridges, but Moran said that's not enough for the amount of upkeep.

"Since there really hasn't been enough money flowing into roads and bridges for the last several decades," Moran said. "We really needed to take a pause, catch up, and make sure this doesn't happen again."

The bond will add 0.7 cents to the current tax rate. The debt service portion of the county’s property tax rate will increase from 3.16 cents per $100 property valuation to 3.86 cents, according to Moran.

Based on the current average home value of $165,841, the annual tax increase will be $11.61 annually.

Work will begin in late spring of 2018.