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

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.

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!

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.

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.

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….:)

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.

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 :)

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! :)

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.

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!

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.

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………..

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 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!

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…

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.

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?

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.

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.

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
11:15 am

By law, this tax will sunset in ten years or earlier if the estimated tax proceeds are collected before ten years are up. It is written in the law. Comparison to GA400 toll is inappropriate.

Road Scholar

June 19th, 2012
11:19 am

Hey Jim. How is it going? Don’t limit yourself to calling out people who make unjust, baseless charges against MARTA. In today’s world, the airwaves/internet are filled with baseless lies and innuendo that cannot be backed up by facts. Isn’t it lovely? Add to it PACS who do not disclose whom, their sources, and whether it is the truth.

Future

June 19th, 2012
11:54 am

The powers that be really screwed up. Not sure who the brainiac was who decided that having motorist pay to ride in a lane that has been free for over 50 years prior to having the vote on TSPLOST, whoever they are needs to be blamed if this fails in Gwinnett and their surrounding counties not in District 7.

The bigger picture is that without the tax or increase in state fuel tax rates the state of Georgia cannot keep up with the current infrastructure with their current load of employees at the GDOT.

I for one hate any form of tax, but time has come for the GDOT to rid themselves of do nothing employees who do not create anything while leaving the burden of their retirement and benefits to the tax payers. t

middleground

June 19th, 2012
12:26 pm

If you vote for this tax, how dumb are you going to feel when they take the state and federal funds away from your area and redirect them to special projects in areas that didn’t vote for this tax.
Vote no and do not give the good old boys billions to redirect to their own pockets.

Gary

June 19th, 2012
1:43 pm

The T-Splost will benefit the area; I believe it will help grow the economy by encouraging businesses to keep moving here. Remember, this will also provide $$$ for local governments to complete projects that more directly affect other localities.

Road Scholar

June 19th, 2012
2:10 pm

Future: Do you know that GDOT has reduced in house state wide staffing from 12500 in the 1970’s to 6300 in 2000 to 4600 now? Most jobs including maintenance, construction, design etc have been out sourced.

Cosby

June 19th, 2012
4:13 pm

15% of it for the metro area and if not in the metro area 25% back to local governemnt but wait, this money is returned to the State to be divided by the state leaders based on population and road milage..hence, those outside of metro Atlanta could end up supporting metro Atlanta. why does the State get to determine where 15% or 25% of this money goes. Also, what abount accountability of where the money that is suppose to go for road maintenance and development has gone, both on the State as well as the Federal level…this just seems..gee, the government has spent / wasted the money received, so lets go get some more from the dumb masses…to that I say Horse squeeze!

Bernie

June 19th, 2012
9:03 pm

Something tells me that Road Scholar is already getting his CUT………..:) Here is hoping you have a good pair of knee pads and elbow pads to go along with that ride. :) Truly Amazing……!

Bernie

June 19th, 2012
9:33 pm

Promises! Promises! just in the building of the HOV lanes through Atlanta. We were all promised that the citizens of Georgia would never be forced into paying to use that lane, We were promised and assured, time & time again, before and during its construction, It would never happen!

There were other promises made too! but not fulfilled, and CONVENIENTLY amended or changed (whatever word that works for you) about the GA 400 toll way.

Look, who’s paying and still paying now!

Don

June 20th, 2012
7:44 am

A revote is NOT a plan. There is no “Plan B” list of projects. It is not reasonable to expect the same people working with the same data will come up with project list that’s much different than “Plan A”.

So, we can vote “yes” now, or wait two years and revote on virtually the same project list – one that’ll be tweaked just a bit and relabeled to seem different – but really won’t be.

It never should have come down to this in the first place. Don’t we vote for a state government so they will actually govern? They shouldn’t be throwing the job of governing, i.e. putting a tax in place, back into our laps. What a bunch of chickens!

Road Scholar

June 20th, 2012
9:33 am

Bernie: Wrong again on two counts. I do not stand to get “kickbacks” as you imply. I’ve done my time in the fast lane and did not accept gifts of any kind. Maybe our legislators could do the same!

The GDOT Board policy now is no charging fees on existing lanes, something they learned (sort of) on I 85. They are referred to as Managed Lanes since the fee fluctuates depending on usage and congestion. Oh and the managed/tolls are managed by the State Road and Toll Authority (SRTA); composed of the governor, the head of SRTA, and the GDOT Commissioner.

Oh and your allusion was sooooo grown up. It matches your whining!

Bernie

June 20th, 2012
1:26 pm

Someone once said If you Throw a rock into a bunch of PIGS, The ONE that Hollars is the ONE you HIT!

Road Scholar is screamng very LOUDLY for all to HEAR!

Bernie

June 20th, 2012
1:30 pm

I am wrong…However he listed and itemized where the FEES are being collected. Remember the next time you pay its a ” MANAGED LANE” .You can not make this up People. This guy (Rhoad Scholar) is a Shrill, if I have ever met one….