GDOT Returns Revised Transportation Wish List to Atlanta Region

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(APN) ATLANTA — The second step in the process which will lead to a Metro Atlanta region vote in 2012 on whether to levy a one penny sales tax to support transportation projects in the region, has been completed.

The Georgia Department of Transportation has reviewed the Metro Atlanta region’s initial, unconstrained wish list, and made some changes.  The changes include removal of projects not meeting the criteria established by the region, in addition to the inclusion of new projects for consideration.

Special transportation districts across the state, including the Atlanta region, are now tasked with creating a fiscally constrained, or affordable, list, based on projected revenues from the one penny sales tax.  This list must be complete by August 15, 2011.

For the Metro Atlanta Region, the Atlanta Regional Roundtable was created to come up with a combined wish list for the region.

This process is required by the the Transportation Investment Act of 2010, approved by the Georgia legislature and former Governor Sonny Perdue.

All major MARTA rail line proposals were included by GDOT as eligible projects, including a MARTA East Heavy Rail Line Extension from Indian Creek Station to Wesley Chapel Road near I-20 East; a MARTA West Heavy Rail Line Extension from Hamilton Holmes Station to Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive near I-285; and a MARTA Northeast Heavy Rail Line Extension from Doraville Station to Norcross.

MARTA bus improvements were also included.

Several City of Atlanta projects were included as eligible, including several road improvements and several portions of the Atlanta Beltline.

Rejected projects include several for the City of Atlanta, such as various road improvements, MARTA infrastructure improvements, and bicycle and pedestrian paths.

MARTA, which submitted its own list, also had several projects rejected, including various upgrades and renovations, as well as certain parts and phases of a proposed rail project for Dekalb County’s Clifton Corridor near Emory University [other parts and phases were approved as eligible].

GDOT added several new potential projects, including several roadways, and bicycle and pedestrian paths, as well as an additional MARTA North Heavy Rail Line Extension to SR 140 in Roswell.

The Atlanta Regional Roundtable is ready to get to work to get a final, fiscally sound list to the voters.

“Our region’s ideal transportation priorities mix will create and retain jobs, expand our mobility options and reduce the amount of time we spend stuck in traffic,” Mayor Bucky Johnson of Norcross and Chairman of the Roundtable, said in a statement.

“We will work over the summer and into the fall, with the help of residents, to craft the right project mix that will have the most positive impact on our quality of life in the shortest amount of time,” Johnson said.

“As we assemble the project list, the Roundtable’s primary objective is to ensure that all projects can be underway within 10 years and guarantee that spending is 100 percent accountable and transparent to everyone,” Johnson said.

“That’s why it’s so important that all residents participate and provide us with their preferences.”

In the next four months, the Roundtable plans to conduct what it claims will be the “largest public outreach effort ever undertaken in the Atlanta region.”

In June, the Roundtable plans to hold telephone county-by-county town hall meetings.

Meanwhile, Terence Courtney of the Public Sector Alliance, one progressive organization dealing with public transportation issues in Atlanta, released a statement opposing the penny sales tax.

“The Transportation Investment Act will do nothing to fund MARTA operations–the part of MARTA’s budget that transit dependent riders and workers interact with most,” Courtney wrote.

“We see [the Act does not] do what transit riders need most… improve access, affordability, and accountability.  One has to really wrack their brains in an attempt to grasp why anyone would create a law to supposedly fund regional transit development, yet exclude the institution that represents the vast majority of regional transit assets.  But that’s just what Georgia lawmakers did last year, and worse still, we have regional leaders actually trying to implement this as regional policy.  Hunh, Come Again?”

(END / 2011)

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