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

Road Scholar

June 19th, 2012
11:15 am

Bernie: either directly or by insinuation, you have accused nameless government officials of cheating and stealing, or being a party to it. Now what are your specific cases of stealing that you have insinuated and who specifically are involved? I’m still waiting. Oh and I read and comprehend just fine! or are you just whining? Again?

Jim Durrett

June 19th, 2012
9:51 am

I am no longer amazed when transit haters pull numbers out of dark places, such as MARTA losing $500 million a year, which is absolute garbage with no basis in fact. But for the AJC to allow Mr. Maloy to write such a falsehood, I can’t explain, unless they figure it exposes his bias for what it is.

Bernie

June 19th, 2012
9:19 am

Road Scholar @ 5:39 am – I think you are in need of a refresher course in reading and comprehension. I never accused anyone directly, its never the individual politicians or board members directly. it is almost always a relative,friend, associate or campaign donor indirect involvement with one or two of the previous elements. This is typically how thievery is done here in Georgia with political corruption. Obviously, you are not too much of a Scholar as your user name implies.

Skeptical

June 19th, 2012
6:48 am

Once this tax increase is passed, it will NEVER go away. Count on it! Remember the Ga. 400 toll?

DeborahinAthens

June 19th, 2012
6:48 am

If we would build a rapid transit system from Gwinnett into Atlanta, you cannot tell me it would be under utilized? Marta struggles because it doesn’t target the problem. For fourteen years I drove from Dacula to Buckhead. The closest Marta station was in Doraville–past the point of the absolute worst traffic–the I-85/316 merge and the I85/285 chaos of hell. If there had been a Marta station in Hamilton Mill or Dacula, I would have taken Marta. I have lived in NYC and Long Island, I have clients in Chicago. I always take the rapid transit systems. Why don’t you just call it like it is? I was born in Atlanta in 1950. We moved to Dacula when I was nine. My father and most of the people in the suburbs fought rapid transit tooth and nail because it would bring the “bad element” to the burbs. this was white code for black people. Their narrow minded outlook has prevented any intelligent, coherent transportation policy. And it has also given rise to the very powerful DOT that is terrified of ceded
power to a rapid transit system. As to preventing crime that might come with transit–look at how it has exploded with gangs proliferating in Gwinnett! I guess the bad element learned how to drive. We need rapid transit. If there was a TSPLOST for only rapid transit, I would vote for it in a minute. Will I vote for this one? No.

Road Scholar

June 19th, 2012
5:39 am

Bernie, please give me specific instances of politicians, and GDOT staff of taking money. Waiting….crickets chirping…

Bernie

June 19th, 2012
1:20 am

Knock…Knock! Whose there? No one, but all of the Crooks and Thieves who are directly or associated with every politician on every Board of Commissioners, Mayors office, City Council, City Of Atlanta , Fulton, Dekalb, Cobb , Clayton and Gwinnett Counties and The Marta Board.

We are here to collect our money upfront before any of you realize that is gone. Just a few Million is all we need to get started. We will return after all of the cost over runs are reported and presented. Sincerely, Names to be added later!

Bernie

June 18th, 2012
11:04 pm

I wonder which Party will the Crooks and Thieves come from the most, when this puppy is let loose. We all know the ones coming form the democrats are sloppy and they tend to let the Crooks and thieves from their friends and family members do all of the stealing.

Whereas, The Republicans do it with far much more class. They tend to allow their campaign donors hire their friends and family members to do the stealing. In any event after all of the investigations are over and the miscreants are sentenced we will be left with the price tag of it all not getting anything what we were told it would be or look like prior to the vote. The only difference is now, is we have opened a lot more doors for more crooks and thieves to come in and steal. we should line up the prosecution team NOW! for we all know that it will be forth coming…it always has.

Bernie

June 18th, 2012
10:45 pm

TrishaDishaWarEagle @10:09 pm – You are truly worst shape than you realize if you are paying cash out of pocket for doctors office visits. The Physicians and hosiptals truly love people like you, for you are paying them more than any of the insured plans, government or any wise. Long term that is not a wise thing to do for your information. You had better hope that you remain healthy and do not get ill or have a serious accident. For if you do, that cash you so proudly claim that you have so much of, unless you are kin to Mitt “Stranger at – the Door”
Romney.
You are going to need one of those life lines and Mitt is not going to save you at all. :)

Ignorance is BLiss………..

Give me an alternative

June 18th, 2012
10:37 pm

Give me an alternative if you don’t want the T-SPLOST. Better yet, why didn’t you give an alternative after the General Assembly passed it. You didn’t, but now you cry giving blank checks. Seriously, we give a blank check w/ all our tax money. At least, we can hope that new construction will bring new jobs and better quality of life. You can’t reference Ga400 because this law makes it clear that it has to sunset.

I’m hoping that this will pass across this state since we really don’t do anything for transportation. This state has already cut its budgets to nothing and you believe we are still WASTING billions…you should see the cuts to necessary agencies and programs.