Public theater begins in battle for projects to be paid with 1 percent sales tax for transportation

By David Pendered

The political optics of the region’s proposed $6.1 billion transportation improvement program begins Tuesday, as the battle over projects spills for the first time into the public arena.

DeKalb County Commissioner Lee May has called a noon press conference – complete with “elected officials and supporters” – to discuss the exclusion of any new transit project to serve south DeKalb on the tentative short list that was approved last week.

May intends to pick up where he left off last week, when he addressed the Atlanta Regional Transportation Roundtable’s Executive Committee after it voted for a $3 billion tentative list of transit projects. May took the podium to ring the bell of equity in transit and finance:

DeKalb County Commissioner Lee May. Credit: DeKalb County

DeKalb County Commissioner Lee May. Credit: DeKalb County

“The southern tier [of DeKalb] represents 400,000 people, and there is not a rail stop in southern DeKalb County as a whole,” May said. “DeKalb has proven dependable for regional funding: Grady [Health System] and MARTA. You would have people in the southern part of DeKalb paying two pennies [1 cent for MARTA and 1 cent for the regional transportation tax] and not seeing any direct benefit.”

Such is the state of affairs in the final days before the Executive Committee is to approve a project list.

Committee Chairman Bucky Johnson, who’s the Norcross mayor, hopes to finalize a list of improvements to roads, transit and perhaps other modes of travel by Aug. 11. That is ahead of the state-mandated deadline of Aug. 15.

The final list is to be adopted by Oct. 15 by the roundtable, which is a 21-member body comprised of the mayor of Atlanta plus 20 other elected officials – the chairpersons of the 10 metro counties, and a mayor from each county who is selected by other mayors of that county.

At today’s meeting, the Executive Committee is slated to adopt a tentative list of road, pedestrian and aviation projects that could be put on the referendum.

The nature of the aviation project, or projects, is unclear. No airport, runway, or aviation project appears to be mentioned in a working list of projects that are being considered for funding.

But the meeting agenda clearly states that aviation is on the table. Here the operative language of the meeting notice that was distributed last week by the Atlanta Regional Commission:

“A called meeting of the Atlanta Regional Transportation Roundtable’s Executive Committee. It will primarily involve discussion of roadway, pedestrian and aviation projects for the draft constrained list to be funded by the Transportation Investment Act regional transportation referendum.”

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

4 replies
  1. UrbanTraveler says:

    Here is an idea for an aviation project to be placed on the list: A rail connection to MARTA from the new Maynard Jackson, Jr. International Concourse. When the new terminal opens next year, the entry and exit point for international travelers will be at the east end of the airport, while all of the transit connections are at the west end. Will international arrivals have to check their luggage again to ride the AirTrain to get from the east to west side, or will they have to ride a bus, or take a cab? Was there even a future in-terminal rail connection planned?

    I travel internationally 2-3 times a year, and always take MARTA to and from the airport. What appears to be a design oversight and lack of public planning could be the reason that even those who want to can no longer practically access the airport using mass transit.

    Report

    Reply
  2. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    Commissioner May obviously isn’t an expert in transportation and land-use planning because if he knew a little more about land use and transit and transportation he would be aware that, at present, South DeKalb County does not necessarily have enough population and development density to adequately support a new rail line.

    The only possible place that a rail line could be routed through South DeKalb is through the I-20 Corridor which would be ill-advised because of the diffuse and sprawling auto-centric development flanking the interstate.

    The best mass transit option for extreme South DeKalb would be increased express bus service along and through the I-20 right-of-way.

    Attempting to run a rail line through an autocentric I-20 Corridor that does not have enough walkable development, population or development density to support it would be a huge waste of money and not necessarily the use of a very limited pot of public funds as rail lines that run for extended distances through freeway corridors don’t always do well in attracting riders who may be discouraged from having to walk into or through the middle of a busy freeway interchange to get to a train station that is detached from surrounding development and isolated from the surrounding community by busy roads.

    Sounds like Commissioner May just wants to get a shiny new rail line built that he can hold up as an accomplishment when running for re-election or election to a higher office and does not care or know where the best place for it to go should be. If May really and truly wants to make an impact on transportation (transit options) and future land use in South DeKalb, then he should be advocating for a commuter rail/light rail line to be run along the CSX rail line that runs east out of Five Points in Downtown Atlanta and passes directly through more dense and walkable areas in passing through Georgia State University, the Inman Park/Edgewood/Little Five Points area, Downtown Decatur, Avondale Estates, Clarkston, Stone Mountain Village, the town of Lithonia, Downtown Conyers, Covington, Social Circle, Madison, Greensboro and beyond into East Central Georgia out to Augusta with heavy express bus service on I-20 between Downtown Atlanta and Lithonia to complement it. Report

    Reply
  3. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    Commissioner May obviously isn’t an expert in transportation and land-use planning because if he knew a little more about land use and transit and transportation he would be aware that, at present, South DeKalb County does not necessarily have enough population and development density to adequately support a new rail line.

    The only possible place that a rail line could be routed through South DeKalb is through the I-20 Corridor which would be ill-advised because of the diffuse and sprawling auto-centric development flanking the interstate.

    The best mass transit option for extreme South DeKalb would be increased express bus service along and through the I-20 right-of-way.

    Attempting to run a rail line through an autocentric I-20 Corridor that does not have enough walkable development, population or development density to support it would be a huge waste of money and not necessarily the use of a very limited pot of public funds as rail lines that run for extended distances through freeway corridors don’t always do well in attracting riders who may be discouraged from having to walk into or through the middle of a busy freeway interchange to get to a train station that is detached from surrounding development and isolated from the surrounding community by busy roads.

    Sounds like Commissioner May just wants to get a shiny new rail line built that he can hold up as an accomplishment when running for re-election or election to a higher office and does not care or know where the best place for it to go should be. If May really and truly wants to make an impact on transportation (transit options) and future land use in South DeKalb, then he should be advocating for a commuter rail/light rail line to be run along the CSX rail line that runs east out of Five Points in Downtown Atlanta and passes directly through more dense and walkable areas in passing through Georgia State University, the Inman Park/Edgewood/Little Five Points area, Downtown Decatur, Avondale Estates, Clarkston, Stone Mountain Village, the town of Lithonia, Downtown Conyers, Covington, Social Circle, Madison, Greensboro and beyond into East Central Georgia out to Augusta with heavy express bus service on I-20 between Downtown Atlanta and Lithonia to complement it. Report

    Reply
  4. The Last Democrat in Georgia says:

    Commissioner May obviously isn’t an expert in transportation and land-use planning because if he knew a little more about land use and transit and transportation he would be aware that, at present, South DeKalb County does not necessarily have enough population and development density to adequately support a new rail line.

    The only possible place that a rail line could be routed through South DeKalb is through the I-20 Corridor which would be ill-advised because of the diffuse and sprawling auto-centric development flanking the interstate.

    The best mass transit option for extreme South DeKalb would be increased express bus service along and through the I-20 right-of-way.

    Attempting to run a rail line through an autocentric I-20 Corridor that does not have enough walkable development, population or development density to support it would be a huge waste of money and not necessarily the use of a very limited pot of public funds as rail lines that run for extended distances through freeway corridors don’t always do well in attracting riders who may be discouraged from having to walk into or through the middle of a busy freeway interchange to get to a train station that is detached from surrounding development and isolated from the surrounding community by busy roads.

    Sounds like Commissioner May just wants to get a shiny new rail line built that he can hold up as an accomplishment when running for re-election or election to a higher office and does not care or know where the best place for it to go should be. If May really and truly wants to make an impact on transportation (transit options) and future land use in South DeKalb, then he should be advocating for a commuter rail/light rail line to be run along the CSX rail line that runs east out of Five Points in Downtown Atlanta and passes directly through more dense and walkable areas in passing through Georgia State University, the Inman Park/Edgewood/Little Five Points area, Downtown Decatur, Avondale Estates, Clarkston, Stone Mountain Village, the town of Lithonia, Downtown Conyers, Covington, Social Circle, Madison, Greensboro and beyond into East Central Georgia out to Augusta with heavy express bus service on I-20 between Downtown Atlanta and Lithonia to complement it. Report

    Reply

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