By David Pendered
The spirit of regional leadership that emerged during the planning for the 2012 transportation sales tax referendum remains intact and is evident in the region’s new short- and long-term transportation plans, according to transportation officials.
“This is the first post-referendum Transportation Improvement Program [and] we did this very well,” said Jannine Miller, GRTA’s former executive director and newest board member.
“It was very political a long time ago,” said GRTA board member J.T. Williams. “The county chair got to say, ‘These are my two projects,’ and it didn’t matter what the projects were. That is a thing of the past. We have to get the best bang for the buck.”
“There also were plenty of opportunities for the public to participate,” said Gwinnett County Chair Charlotte Nash. “It’s not our plan, it’s the plan of the entire community. As we’re building toward whatever the next ‘Ask’ of the public will be, its really important to have that buy-in from the public in terms of the planning process.”
“This is a fantastic plan, a goal oriented plan that improves the movement of goods and people,” said Toby Carr, the state’s transportation planning director. “It leverages public private partnerships in a way we never have before. We’re working more closely with our CIDs [community improvement districts], and we’re allocating a limited resource in ways that take us to a new and very positive areas.”
“This is going to be a fabulous message to the economic development opportunities we have in this state,” said Yvonne Williams, president/CEO of the Perimeter CIDs.
The cause of celebration was passage of a six-year Transportation Improvement Program and the long-range Plan 2040.
Both plans sailed through approval. First the Atlanta Regional Commission, on March 26, then the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority, on April 9, approved plans that concede from the outset that they don’t have enough money to meet all needs.
But they do intend to do the best job possible with the funding that is available.
“The message needs to be that we’ve done a very good job with the resources,” said GRTA board member Bob Voyles.
The six-year spending plan, the TIP, provides a guideline for more than $7 billion in transportation projects that are to be underway in a matter of years in the 18-county region. The list includes:
- Congestion-easing lanes that will take local traffic off I-285 and Ga. 400 near that choked interchange;
- Diverging diamond interchanges that are to hasten traffic through two clogged areas: Camp Creek Parkway at I-285; and Windy Hill Road at I-75;
- Operational funding for MARTA to increase the frequency of trains;
- “Complete street” retrofits that promote safe cycling and walking in a number of busy road corridors.
GRTA board Chairman Sonny Deriso said each project was vetted for its contribution to mobility. Some projects that initially drew attention for their low cost benefit proved to be an initial phase of a broader project that did warrant construction, he said.
“It’s been gratifying to sit at the table with … the staff that put all this together, and to have a constructive exchange,” Deriso said. “Nobody feels threatened, or feels challenged. It’s all transparent.
“This is an evolutionary thing and not where we would like it to be,” Deriso said of the process. “But it is a far cry from where it’s ever been before.”