Rail Projects Are Top Picks for Referendum List

The Executive Committee of the Atlanta Regional Transportation Roundtable will pursue several rail projects and extended funding for GRTA bus service. Dacula Mayor Jimmy Wilbanks says TSPLOST referendum should include a balanced list of projects.

Three billion down, three billion to go.

On Aug. 4, the Executive Committee of the Atlanta Regional Transportation Roundtable reached roughly the halfway point in choosing which transportation projects to pursue during next July’s Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax or TSPLOST referendum. The committee voted to include seven major transit projects totaling approximately $3 billion on the draft referendum list.

According to a press release from the Atlanta Regional Commission, rail projects comprise the bulk of the seven projects identified so far. Those projects include:

  • Atlanta Beltline
  • Clifton Corridor Transit Line
  • MARTA State of Good Repair
  • Northwest Corridor to Town Center
  • Restore Clayton County Local Bus Service
  • Study and planning for Northeast Corridor
  • Funding the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority’s Xpress Bus service for 10 years, at a cost of $180 million

The committee must now identify roughly $3.1 billion in additional transportation projects for inclusion on the list. The committee has until mid-August to return a draft referendum list to the full 21-member Roundtable for adoption.

Bucky Johnson, Chairman of the Roundtable Executive Committee and mayor of Norcross said real progress was made in honing the draft referendum project list. Johnson said the committee will focus this week “on the large, region-shaping road and interstate exchange projects that can get our region moving in the future.”

expressed concern the TSPLOST list will not be looked upon favorably by voters unless it includes a balanced list of projects.

“If you look at the map of the places where projects are suggested, it is evident that Dacula/southeastern Gwinnett doesn’t have many. What’s the chance of a SE Gwinnett voter looking favorably on a list that is weighted for heavy/lite rail?” Wilbanks wrote in response to an emailed inquiry. “Having said all that, Gwinnett and Dacula and southeast Gwinnett especially need to be thinking regionally. We need to be able to move in the region if we are to stay viable as an economic development engine in Gwinnett.”

The Executive Committee plans to finalize its draft list of projects on Aug. 11. The full Roundtable will have until Oct. 15 to adopt the list that will go before the voters next year.

Earlier this year, city and county officials were asked to submit a “wish list” of transportation projects to be funded with a proposed 1 percent transportation special purpose local option sales tax or TSPLOST. In March, –- a list that originally included 73 projects.

Those projects, combined with projects from the 10-county Atlanta metro region, were vetted by the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT). with about 30 Gwinnett projects struck from the list. 

Among those eliminated were several projects requested by the City of Dacula. The city including replacing/widening the Dacula Road Bridge at Highway 29, widening Harbins Road to four lanes, extending Sugarloaf Parkway from Highway 316 to State Route 20 and building a Winder Highway bike trail from Dacula to Athens. Only one of Dacula's projects, the $301 million Sugarloaf Parkway extension, made the unconstrained list.

In early July, the Atlanta Regional Transportation Roundtable received a draft “constrained” list of projects. The proposed constrained list is the result of whittling the $22.9 billion, 446-project unconstrained list to a list that can be funded with the estimated revenue the TSPLOST is expected to generate for regional projects.

by state economist Kenneth Heaghney show the Atlanta metro region could receive as much as $8.4 billion in tax proceeds for transportation. In the worst-case scenario, the metro area would only take in $6.8 billion. Of those funds, 85 percent would be allocated for regional transportation projects. The remaining 15 percent would be sent to local governments to fund local projects. Officials are currently working on the assumption the tax will generate approximately $7.2 billion of which $6.1 billion will go to regional projects and another $1.1 billion will be divided among city and county governments for local projects.

Though presented as a choice for voters, there are penalties if the public fails to approve next year’s TSPLOST referendum.

H.B. 277, the Transportation Investment Act, contains penalties for regions that fail to adopt the TSPLOST. If a region adopts the TSPLOST, local governments will only be required to pay 10 percent in matching funds for projects receiving funding from the Georgia Department of Transportation. If the region holds a referendum, but fails to pass the TSPLOST, local governments will be required to post 30 percent in matching funds. If the Roundtable fails to reach an agreement on the constrained list and fails to hold the referendum, local governments in the Atlanta region would be required to pay 50 percent in matching funds for state aided transportation projects.



Jimmy Orr August 08, 2011 at 11:41 PM
Asking the majority of voters in our ten county Metro Atlanta regional transportation district to vote for more government public transit boondoggles, which are perpetually subsidized, is like telling a coop full of chickens to vote for Colonel Sanders. Keep in mind that MARTA is inexorably tied to TSPLOST. MARTA needs the pool of money that would be made available through TSPLOST. MARTA probably carries no more than 5% of the regional commuters with their fare revenues probably covering no more than 20% to 30 % of the ongoing operating & maintenance costs. The balance is subsidized. This is why it behooves us to work diligently through our Congressman and Senators to put the axe to the bloated federal bureaucracy in which 26 federal agencies oversees 900 grant programs and 16 federal agencies oversees 2,001 (last count) subsidy programs. If we "cut the head of the dragon" off at its source in Washington it will help us in two ways. #1, There will be a reduction in the grant and subsidy money that feed public transit bondoggles as well as a reduction of the bureaucrat hogs who give our money away recklessly on public transit boondoggles. #2. By reducing grant and subsidy programs and the bureaucrat hogs who manage them, it will mean lower taxes and less government. (See Orr continuation)
Jimmy Orr August 08, 2011 at 11:49 PM
(Orr continuation) Lower taxes will mean "We the people" aka taxpayers aka consumers will have more money in our posckets for purchasing (and savings) power which in turn, will contribute to the restoration of our economy and get the wheels of our market driven system of free enterprise turning again. Patrick and I agree on many issues but this is one we will have to agree to disagree on. If TSPLOST does not pass, the sky is not going to fall. While transportation may be important to te business community in the City of Atlanta, their interstes could best be served through placing emphasis on reducing crime, repairing their broken water and sewer infrastructure, and ensuring kids get a quality education in the Atlanta Public School System (enough said) ahead of a streetcar named desire.
John Cook August 09, 2011 at 05:48 AM
What a deal. Let's jump on this train before we even bother thinking about where it is taking us! Yippee!!! Out of the $7 billion in projected sales tax for the region, Gwinnett will pay $1 Billion. But we don’t get nearly that in project value. Keep in mind that Gwinnett will pay 1/7 of the 10 county sales tax, but all we get for this half of our money is "Study and planning for Northeast Corridor" and a small piece of the 180 million Express Bus Service allocation. We will be better off keeping the money at home and funding our own projects. 3 billion x 1/7 = $428,571,428.57 so does it sound like we are getting good value for our money to spend more than $428 Million in Sales Tax money to get "Study and planning for Northeast Corridor"? That sounds like the sort of “Balanced Plan” that Congress just gave us to solve the debt crisis. That sounds like vapor. That "Study" will really reduce congestion in our part of the region during the 10 years we pay the sales tax, won't it?
Chuck Warbington August 09, 2011 at 05:06 PM
I am confident that Gwinnett will get its fair share of funds for projects when the project list is finalized based on various scenarios that I hear. Charlotte and Bucky Johnson our reps. are fighting hard for Gwinnett. Majority will be roads and a bit on transit. Georgia ranks 49th in the country in per capita spending on transportation. Understand we are in a non-spending environment but for those of us who sit idling in traffic throughout the day, something must be done for relief. It took me 2 hours from Dacula to Cumming this morning using Highway 20 (which is possibly one of the roads to be widened on the list of projects).
Matt McW August 09, 2011 at 05:30 PM
Livable Communities Coalition executive director Ray Christman urges the Roundtable to ensure a strong transit presence on the final project list. Watch the video: http://livcomm.wordpress.com/2011/08/04/christman-urges-transit-focus-at-roundtable-meeting/.


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