Up until now, proponents for new transportation funding were taking a neutral stand on which version of two bills they preferred.
There’s the Senate version, which would provide a regional two-step approach. First, voters would be asked whether they would favor changing the state constitution to permit a regional one-cent sales tax. Then the region would come up with list of transportation projects that would then be presented to the voters so they could decide whether to support that sales tax.
Then there’s the House version, which calls for a statewide one-cent sales tax with a list of projects already identified by the House. Voters would either approve the tax with those projects or not.
But now several groups are making their preferences known. And the verdict is that they much prefer the Senate Bill 39 rather than House Bill 277.
Why? The House version includes the possible construction of a large tunnel underneath Atlanta’s intown neighborhoods as well as a new Northern Arc and a long list of road widenings in the metro area.
Sally Flocks, executive director of the pedestrian advocacy group PEDs, said that the House bill provides no guarantee that transit, bicycle or pedestrian projects will get funded or built.
Park Pride, a group that promotes green space in the Atlanta region, is monitoring the bill to make sure the proposed tunnels would not adversely impact Piedmont Park or other parks in the region.
In addition, the Citizens for Progressive Transit has taken a stand against the House bill because it believes it favors road construction over transit and pedestrian access.
These groups have been reaching out to neighborhood and advocacy organizations to join the campaign against the House bill.
According to neighborhood activist Liz Coyle, the House bill “is a top-down, state-controlled approach. And as we know all too well in this community, the state sometimes ties to impose unwanted transportation projects on us.”
In an email to about 35 community leaders, Coyle wrote: “Yes, the state needs to increase revenue dedicated to transportation. Senate Bill 39 is a much better approach. It allows local voters to approve or reject specific projects. HB 277 does not.”
Of course, there is so much confusion right now at the state capitol on transportation issues. Gov. Sonny Perdue says he won’t support any new funding until his massive, far-reaching plan to reorganize the state’s transportation agencies is approved. The Georgia Department of Transportation is in a fight for its life.
And in the meantime, the hope for constructive action on new transportation funding fades with each passing day.