By Maria Saporta
It was regional transportation day in Cobb County.
Tad Leithead, chairman of the Atlanta Regional Commission and a former chairman of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce, gave the keynote speech at the First Monday breakfast on the upcoming transportation sales tax referendum in 2012.
During the question-and-answer period, Leithead was asked whether Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s desire to move the date of the referendum from the special primary date of July 31 to the general election on Nov. 6 would be successful.
“The momentum is moving towards delaying the referendum to November,” Leithead said. “The July primary day would have a lower turn out. And you don’t get a broad base of voters to the polls.”
Leithead said he expected the legislature to address the issue at the 2012 legislative session, which made it sound unlikely that the bill would come up during the special session later this month on Aug. 15.
“We won’t know for sure until the session,” Leithead said.
Either way, Leithead made a valiant case for the transportation referendum saying it would be “the greatest public works investment in the history of our state,” and it would “help reduce our reliance on single occupancy vehicles and improve our quality of life.”
The one-cent transportation sales tax is estimated to generate $7.2 billion over 10 year with 15 percent of that going back to local governments for their individual project.
That leaves $6.1 billion that will be part of a regional project list that is being put together by the executive committee of the Atlanta Regional Transportation Roundtable. A draft project list is supposed to be released by Aug. 15.
Leithead, who is not part of the roundtable but is involved because ARC is providing the staff support for the project list, said the big issue right now is over the percentage split between roads and transit.
At the last roundtable meeting, three scenarios were presented — a 60-40 split favoring roads; a 50-50 split; and a 60-40 split favoring transit.
But Leithead also made sure that the Cobb Chamber knew that in addition to the transportation sales tax, the ongoing Transportation Improvement Program calls for an additional $7.6 billion investment in transportation over the same decade, with most of that going towards roads.
That seemed to bolster the argument that the 2012 sales tax should be more transit heavy when considering all future transportation investments in the region.
Also attending the Cobb Chamber breakfast was Vance Smith, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Transportation. Smith spoke of the importance of his department to deliver road projects in a timely and cost effective manner.
Georgia’s legendary DOT commissioners — Tom Moreland — also was in the audience. He was accompanied by former Gwinnett Commission Chairman (and former ARC Chairman) Wayne Hill, who has now joined the Moreland-Altobelli engineering consulting firm.