TSPLOST projects

Local projects good or just a carrot stick?

There’s been much debate over the major projects that get most of the money if the regional transportation sales tax passes July 31. Less is known about the discretionary local fixes to be financed by 15 percent of the funds. Today, an Atlanta adviser and Georgia Tea Party board member address the smaller backyard works that stand to receive about $1.1 billion regionally.

Today’s moderator is Tom Sabulis. Commenting is open below Tom Maloy’s column.

By Tom Weyandt

On July 31, voters in metro Atlanta will decide whether to support a penny sales tax to fund $6.14 billion in critical road and transit projects.

After a year of collaboration, elected officials on the regional roundtable unanimously approved a list of projects that addresses capacity and maintenance needs across metro Atlanta and includes funds for transit expansion and capital improvements in Cobb, Gwinnett, Clayton and DeKalb counties plus assistance to major road bottlenecks.

But many voters may not be aware that a “yes” vote also means more money for local governments to use for transportation projects close to home. The enabling legislation provided that 15 percent of the funds raised would be allocated to every local government for discretionary use. For the region, 15 percent is worth almost $1.1 billion.

In Atlanta, we have undertaken a comprehensive process to develop a list of projects that would be funded by the 15 percent allocation, which would amount to about $9.4 million per year for 10 years, totaling $94 million.

We reviewed transportation needs, worked with the City Council and met with community groups and held public meetings. We received valuable input from residents and business owners.

First, they want a focus on city-owned facilities and roads instead of state-owned areas. Second, constituents favor sidewalks, crosswalks, roadway maintenance and bicycle projects, each a core part of the quality of life of neighborhoods. Finally, the public told us to fund projects we have already identified in city plans.

The initial list covers the first five years of the program and focuses on small projects and improvements such as makeovers of major corridors such as Bolton Road, DeKalb Avenue and Cascade Road. Improvements are likely to include resurfacing, signal systems, sidewalks and other pedestrian improvements; accessibility improvements for the disabled; and provisions for transit and bicycles.

If the referendum passes, 93 percent of Atlantans will reside within a half-mile of at least one of the 15 percent list projects or the regional projects. Every neighborhood stands to see real improvements in its quality of life — whether it’s better crosswalks, more bicycle paths, or access to major projects such as the Atlanta Beltline or the Atlanta Streetcar. Every year, city leaders will review and refresh the list as community needs evolve.

Residents can learn more about the 15 percent project list at http://tinyurl.com/7e32wum. Now is not the time for more planning — now is the time for action. Get educated about the referendum and vote July 31.

Tom Weyandt is Mayor Kasim Reed’s transportation policy adviser.

By Tom Maloy

It’s hard to debate the 15 percent portion of the Transportation Investment Act that will be distributed to local governments. It does represent a return of tax dollars to build new sidewalks, fix streets and get matching grants. So what’s not to like?

It’s the carrot dangled to get local government officials on board the train — or in this case light rail. But does this 15 percent return really make the TIA a good investment for taxpayers?

For the answer, you need only to compare the projects list with the stated purpose of the TIA, which is to “use available resources to maximum efficiency in order to alleviate the gridlock in and around the metropolitan Atlanta region.” Unfortunately, there is little in the project lists that would accomplish that goal, even on the 15 percent local level.

Our traffic problems are caused by too many cars all trying to get to the same place at the same time. The TIA’s solution is to build huge infrastructures for light rail and bus rapid transit, and somehow lure enough commuters to make the enormous expense worthwhile.

You needn’t look any further than MARTA to see the folly in that. MARTA maintains a $508 million annual operating loss and a $1.2 billion maintenance backlog, while annual ridership continuesto decrease. Yet the TIA projects list proposes similar transit systems all across the region.

Even with the most optimistic ridership estimates, the new systems would require an additional 70 percent annual subsidy from taxpayers for maintenance and operations. At approximately $2 million per mile, per year for light rail, that adds up to a pretty large tab.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. The TIA, effectively, will provide initial funding for Atlanta Region’s 2008 Concept 3 transit proposal, the cost of which, according to estimates by the Transit Planning Board, will exceed $75 billion during the next 18 years. Promoters of Concept 3 say that amounts to only $1.15 per day for each person in the region. But, for a family of four, it amounts to more than $30,000 during the 18 years.

While a 15 percent return to local governments arguably may be a good thing, there are too many flaws in the TIA law to make it worthy of our votes. There is no opt-out provision for counties, it carries none of the protections of a true SPLOST, and it’s another step down a path of ever-increasing taxes to support the infinite expansion of a transit system that’s antiquated before it’s ever built.

TIA proponents say there is no Plan B; that we have no alternative but to vote for this in July.

But there is a Plan B built right into the law — a revote in two years. Let’s vote this down. Rewrite the law and develop a projects list that actually relieves traffic congestion. Then in 2014, let’s give it another shot.

Tom Maloy is a board member of the Georgia Tea Party.

33 comments Add your comment

TrishaDishaWarEagle

June 18th, 2012
10:09 pm

@Bernie, I do pay out of pocket for all my prescriptions. I am a healthy younger woman and I pay cash for office visits and a high deductible catastrophic policy because it is the most cost effective for me. Luckily that will still be an option after SCOTUSstrikes down MediScare this week or next..

And I will be blunt..I vote my purse because I value my money more than anything else I have. So the real war on women is being waged by the party trying to tax them more..Democrats.

Nobody elses needs, no matter how dire, constitute a requirement upon me to provide..and vice versa…death to the collective..long live Galt!

laurie

June 18th, 2012
9:52 pm

7% sales tax on top of state income tax is too much. Our state and local governments are doing a poor job managing the funds they have now, Let’s not feed this beast any more.

Bernie

June 18th, 2012
9:46 pm

TrishaDishaWarEagle @ 8:10 pm, You are must be one of those low informed information voters, I have been hearing so much about. A comment like that coming from what seems to be a female and War Eagle no doubt, seems to me you should be aware that the Republican Party and its supporters has a War going on with…….Dare shall I say it? well…OK! “YOUR VAGINA!” . You had better hope that your Sisters in Arms are thinking and Voting more sensibly than you!

You may be one of those 1950’s type of Republican women who do mind having good ole ” Jim BOB and his friends telling you what to do and you should not do with your own VAGINA! Its America its a free country, last time I checked. So if you do not mind putting two aspirin between your legs and closing your eyes when that Doctor performs that invasive ultrasound, that you do not want or desire! Then….and maybe only then, your comment about the President Going down in November was not such a good idea for your VAGINA! :)

Good luck on paying for your birth control Pills out of pocket. I hope Jim Bob will appreciate you doing that for him! :)

TrishaDishaWarEagle

June 18th, 2012
8:10 pm

@Bernie..

While my schadenfreude reservoir does need refilling, It will have to wait until obama goes down in November because TSPLOST has no shot in hell of passing :)

SAWB

June 18th, 2012
7:49 pm

The ARC lists on their WEB site some of the proposed projects. It is disturbing that some municipalities that will receive this money do not have much detail. I understand the argument that some counties make that they have no idea where sidewalks might be needed in five years, but at least allocate the money for sidewalks. The idea of the TSPLOST was that we would approve a tax for a specific time frame and specific projects, but a blank wish list is not very specific.

Bernie

June 18th, 2012
7:05 pm

Watching How fast The Crooks and Thieves, get their hands on this money, is going to be FUN to watch….:)

Logical Dude

June 18th, 2012
6:28 pm

Tom Maloy,
Other than the Plan B “revote in 2 years”, what other options would you have given to actually solve regional transportation issues?
You know, solutions that are rooted in the reality of an unsupportive state government. more studies? The state has spent who knows how much on studies. Counties and regions spend who knows how much on studies. The issue has been studied, and the “best solution for what we got” is in the TSPLOST vote.
If you don’t think so, please PLEASE offer a real solution instead of “No, just revote”. because that is not an acceptable solution.

Road Scholar

June 18th, 2012
6:15 pm

luangtom: Many local governments have or are developing their lists and priorities. Have you bothered to check your county/city to see if they have/are doing one? In Sunday’s paper there was an article decrying some governments have/do not have lists which was followed up today with a more positive article. I disagree with Mayor Wood in Roswell where he contends it is premature to develop such lists. I say it is called planning! The list can be vetted to the public for feedback. Also the local government, if it passes, can float bonds backed by the anticipated revenue to accelerate the projects delivery.

Road Scholar

June 18th, 2012
6:09 pm

I wonder if the COA will be spending any monies on the north side at Lindbergh Dr and Sheridan or Piedmont at Roswell Roads? Lenox Road?

Folly? Yeah let’s dump the number of trips a day made on MARTA onto our streets and highways and watch them clog up like they never have done before! Add to it 5,10,20..40.years of growth for the Atlanta Region. Yeah, with the internet, one may work from home with only minimal trips to the office…that is if you do not provide customer service. But the movement of goods and services will continue to increase , and with added congestion, cost more.

I’ve heard that people don’t like the project list, but, except for the Beltline, what other problems should have been a priority? No additional whining please.

Wait two years? We have already waited long enough!

luangtom

June 18th, 2012
6:07 pm

A vote of NO is appropriate at this time. Why do people not care about a blank-check being given to local government in the form of $1.1-billion and not wonder where it is going to be spent? No list of proposals from the local governments is required. Just apply and get the money. Huh? C’mon, people, we all sit and complain about accountability and yet we will see many of us letting it slide in the case of TSPLOST funds. Where is the furor and the uproar?

After seeing how well the State of GA handled the toll-fees on GA-400, I am prone to worry about how well they will dole out and handle the funds from a passed TSPLOST.