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:
“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.”