Metro leaders seek grassroots support for regional transportation sales tax
By Maria Saporta
Now the hard work begins — shrinking a wish list of $22.9 billion worth of transportation projects into a list that is estimated to cost a total of $6.14 billion over the next 10 years.
But numerous questions remain.
At Monday’s Fulton County Transportation Summit, it was clear that a division exists among leaders in the county.
Virtually the whole meeting was dedicated to discussing the future of rail transportation in the region.
But several mayors in north Fulton have already been expressed their displeasure with the proposed tax because they already pay a one-penny sales tax.
One local leader said he would have a hard time selling the project list to his constituents. A group mayors from the northern part of the county have already gone on record saying they would withhold support for the tax if issues of equity were not addressed.
Roswell Mayor Jere Wood explained that elected leaders in each jurisdiction would vote for the transportation project list as long as they were assured that thier would be tangible projects in each jurisdiction.
In some ways, the general population in Fulton County may be ahead of their leaders. Brandon Beach said that a recent survey of residents support. The polls showed that 79.8 percent of North Fulton residents would support the development of transit projects.
“The suburbs are ready for transit,” said Brandon Beach, president of the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce. “We have got to be committed to regional transit.”
Todd Long, director of planning for the Georgia Department of Transportation., explained why some of the transit projects have a much higher pricetag when compared to roads.
“One reason why the costs on these transportation projects are so expensive is because we’ve included 20 years of operating costs from the sales project.”
Later, Long also spoke to a gathering at Manuel’s of the alumni of the Regional Leadership Institute, said: “We don’t have enough money to build the infrastructure that we need” and then he added: “the
region has to decide how much they’re going to put towards transit.”
The executive committee of the Roundtable will make its recommendation of a project list by August 15; and then it will got before the entire roundtable by Oct. 15.
Another important issue that needs to be addressed within the next year is transit governance. Currently, the metro area includes MARTA, Cobb County Transit, Gwinnett transit, GRTA’s express buses among others.
Ideally, those entities could better coordinate their transit services across the region with little regard to political boundaries.