City of Atlanta develops plan for spending its 15 percent of region’s transportation tax

By Maria Saporta

When metro Atlanta voters go to the polls on July 31 to vote on a one-penny regional sales tax for transportation for the next 10 years, they will be voting for two pots of money.

One pot — $6.14 billion (or 85 percent of what would be collected) — would go to a list a projects approved by the Atlanta Regional Roundtable, of which 52 percent will go towards transit projects.

The other pot is for the remaining 15 percent, which would total about $1.1 billion, would be distributed to the region’s local governments to spend on their own transportation projects.

For the City of Atlanta, it is estimated that 15 percent of the tax would translate into about $95 million over 10 years, or about $9.5 million a year.

In an interview last week, Tom Weyandt, the City of Atlanta’s senior transportation policy advisor, shared the latest thinking of how that money would be invested if the tax were passed.

As other local jurisdictions develop their plans on how to invest their portion of the 15 percent, please let SaportaReport know so we can share that with our readers.

Weyandt said the city is considering spending its funds in three different ways.

The first category (roughly $4 million a year,) would be for “high-profile” projects — major city roadways, such as DeKalb Avenue, Cascade Road, Fairburn Road, Flat Shoals Avenue, Lenox Road, Monroe Dr., West Paces Ferry Road, to name a few possible corridors.

Weyandt said the corridor improvements could include pavement resurfacing, sidewalk repair and installation, streetscape improvements, lighting, bicycle facilities, pedestrian crossings, on-street parking and transit amenities.

All the projects would be pulled from the “Connect Atlanta Plan,” the “2011 Comprehensive Development Plan and the 2010 State of City’s Transportation Infrastructure & Fleet Inventory Report.

The second category will be to distribute about $3.2 million a year among the city’s individual 12 City Council districts. Each council district would get about $265,000 a year to put in their communities. Again, all the selected projects would come from the city’s already approved transportation plan.

By spreading the dollars across the city’s 12 council districts, Weyandt said that would help guarantee that there would not be any “blank spots” — a few areas of the city that would not directly benefit from the region-approved transportation projects.

The third category could be referred to as opportunistic reserves. As proposed by Weyandt, who is working on behalf of Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, the city would plan to set aside at least $1 million a year that it could use as a local match for federal or state transportation projects.

“We have missed opportunities in the past, and this would enable us to respond to opportunities in the future,” Weyandt said. In particular, the city has not been able to match federal grants for the Livable Communities Initiative unless the areas are part of a community improvement district.

Ideally, Weyandt said the city would have nailed down its plans for how to spend the 15 percent by May 15. That would give the city more than two months to let voters know what they would be voting for when going to the polls on July 31.

Between now and then, Weyandt said the administration is working with the Atlanta City Council on drafting the city’s plans. The city also will have four public meetings during the next two weeks so people can provide their own ideas on how the 15 percent should be invested in the city.

“We just want to help people understand what the Transportation Improvement Act is all about and to answer any questions they might have,” Weyandt said.

Here is the schedule of those four public briefings:

Session 1: Southeast Quadrant

Monday, February 27, 2012 from 6:00pm to 8:00pm (presentations at 6:00pm and 7:00pm)

Ford Conservation Room & Eco Hall, Zoo Atlanta, 800 Cherokee Ave SE, Atlanta, GA 30315

Accessible via MARTA bus routes 32 & 49.

Session 2: Southwest Quadrant

Tuesday, February 28, 2012 from 6:00pm to 8:00pm (presentations at 6:00pm and 7:00pm)

Cascade United Methodist Church, 3144 Cascade Rd SW, Atlanta, GA 30311

Accessible via MARTA bus routes 66 & 71.

Session 3: Northeast Quadrant

Thursday, March 1, 2012 from 6:00pm to 8:00pm (presentations at 6:00pm and 7:00pm)

Atrium, MARTA Headquarters, 2424 Piedmont Rd NE, Atlanta, GA 30324

Accessible via MARTA Gold & Red Lines and bus routes 5, 6, 27, 30 and 39.

Session 4: Northwest Quadrant

Monday, March 5, 2012 from 6:00pm to 8:00pm (presentations at 6:00pm and 7:00pm)

Carpenter’s House, Atlanta Mission, 2353 Bolton Rd NW, Atlanta, GA 30318

Accessible via MARTA bus route 60.

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