Beltline, Not MARTA Line Extensions, on Penny Tax Proposed List
(APN) ATLANTA — On Thursday, August 04, 2011, the Executive Committee of the Atlanta Regional Transportation Roundtable, narrowed the list of major projects to receive full or significant funding, as part of the Atlanta regional transportation wish list, down to a fiscally feasible, or constrained, list.
The Committee decided to pursue inclusion of seven major transit projects on the referendum list, worth approximately three billion dollars.
With a budget of 6.1 billion dollars–the total revenue projected to be raised through a proposed penny sales tax throughout the ten-county Metro Atlanta region–the proposed allocation of money for the seven major projects, leaves some 3.1 billion dollars remaining.
This remaining amount will be spent for roads, sidewalks and possibly some smaller transit projects, to be determined by August 15, 2011, at which time the five-member Executive Committee will turn a draft referendum list over to the full 21-member Roundtable for consideration.
The full Roundtable will finalize the list by October 15, 2011, and the penny sales tax itself will be on the ballot before the voters of the Metro Atlanta region in July 2012.
The seven projects are:
(1) A Clifton Corridor MARTA route, which–while not an extension of an existing Heavy-Rail MARTA Line, would create a new line to service the Emory University area, which would connect with the existing MARTA Heavy-Rail grid. (700 million dollars).
There are currently two different proposals on the table for this MARTA route. One is for a new Heavy-Rail Line, which would split off at Lindbergh MARTA Station, and go southeast to Emory.
Another proposal for the route involves a light-rail line to connect with MARTA’s Heavy-Rail line.
(2) Segments of the Atlanta Beltline route, likely streetcars.
However, commercial and residential development along the Beltline is projected to lead to significant increases in property values, and thus, property taxes and rents, making it even more difficult than it already is for working families to live in Atlanta.
Atlanta Progressive News has raised consistent concerns about the Atlanta Beltline as an unmitigated gentrification project.
To the extent that a penny sales tax is a regressive form of tax which disproportionately burdens working families, inclusion of funding for the Beltline on the wish list for this referendum, means that working families in Atlanta are, in effect, being asked to fund their own housing cost burden and possible geographic displacement. (600 million dollars).
(3) Significant funding for a rail line, possibly light rail, from Midtown Atlanta to Cumberland Mall in Cobb County. The total cost of the project is 1.3 billion dollars (825 million dollars).
(4) Various MARTA upgrades, state of good repair funding (500 million dollars).
(5) Restore local bus service to Clayton County (100 million dollars).
(6) Preliminary study and planning of a possible light-rail line to service Gwinnett County (100 million dollars).
(7) Georgia Regional Transportation Authority Xpress buses (180 million dollars).
Funding for four proposed major MARTA Heavy Rail Line Extensions–East, Northeast, North, and West, three of which were requested by MARTA–failed to make the list, while funding for segments of the Atlanta Beltline, supported by City of Atlanta, did.
However, the Executive Committee included two of the four proposed Heavy-Rail Line Extensions on its secondary, or “to be considered” list.
One was a North Line Extension to SR 140, which was suggested by the State’s Department of Transportation. The other was the Northeast Line Extension from Doraville to the other side of I-185; this extension would potentially connect with a light rail line.
Another major transit project that did not make the list is a segment of an Atlanta to Macon rail line, but it is also on the “to be considered” list.
An organization called Georgians for Passenger Rail has been pushing for the rail line, which would span three regions, including the Metro Atlanta region.
Three other items on the “to be considered” list include a systemwide environmental analysis of the impact of transit projects, a regional mobility call center, and light rail service from Downtown Atlanta east to Candler Road.
This proposed light-rail east line, to be run by MARTA, is conceived to eventually run all the way east to Lithonia. Also, it is being considered in the place of an extension of the existing MARTA Heavy-Rail East Line.
The Executive Committee’s vote was 3 to 2, with Mayor Kasim Reed of Atlanta, Mayor Bill Floyd of Decatur, and Mayor Mark Mathews of Kennesaw voting yea; and Douglas County Commission Chairman Tom Worthan and Henry County Commission Chairman BJ Mathis, voting nay.
Worthan and Mathis are Chairs of outlying counties, who generally favor roads over transit projects; they do not want their counties to be left out on the list.
“There’s always this hidden monster about the outer counties,” Ashley Robbins, President of Citizens for Progressive Transit, told Atlanta Progressive News.
“It’s said that this can’t pass without the outer counties, but if you look at the population distribution, the five inner counties don’t need the outer counties,” Robbins said.
“There was a proposal to equally fund the counties, it was voted down. This should be regional, not about jurisdiction,” Robbins said.
(END / 2011)