By Maria Saporta
Fair Share for Transit, the coalition of 81 organizations advocating for greater investment in public transportation, made a final plea for its cause on Friday.
On Monday, the Atlanta Regional Transportation Roundtable executive committee will approve its final draft list of projects that are supposed to total $6.1 billion. The full Roundtable must approve the final list by Oct. 15.
So far, the roundtable’s executive committee has identified a total of $3. 6 billion for transit projects, but its list was still $400 million above the $6.1 billion target.
In an emailed letter to Roundtable members, the key spokesman for Fair Share — Ray Christman — made three key points. To read the full letter, click here.
The sales tax referendum that will go before voters in 2012 “is the only opportunity on the horizon to fund much-needed — and much wanted — transit projects” in the Atlanta region.
Fair Share’s goal of $4 billion for transit would still represent only 25 percent of the region’s expected transportation investments in the next 10 years.
And the $4 billion in transit funding could leverage $1.5 billion to $2 billion in federal matching funds for the region.
Christman, who also is executive director of the Livable Communities Coalition, said the current draft list of projects falls short of cost estimates for full build-out of several rail projects, including the Clifton Corridor, the Northwest Corridor (to Cobb County), and the MARTA extension to either Wesley Chapel or to Candler Road.
Another major omission on the list is the Atlanta to Griffin commuter rail line, a project that has garnered strong grassroots support and the only project that currently has a pot of matching federal dollars.
“From the outset, Fair Share has recognized the need to invest in roads as well as transit, but road projects have other funding opportunities,” Christman said. But without the regional transportation sales tax revenues, “transit has no other plan for funding.”
The letter then went on to identify a number of ways that the Roundtable could get to the $6.1 billion funding level by saving dollars on other projects that could get alternative funding from federal, state and local sources.
By comparison, Christman said that the options to fund new transit projects do not exist.
In closing, Christman stated: “On Monday, let’s send a strong signal to businesses, entrepreneurs, young professionals, residents, families and the world that the Atlanta region is serious about building an integrated transportation network.”