If you want to see a microcosm of the reason metro Atlanta voters didn’t trust our transportation planners enough to approve the $7.2 billion T-SPLOST tax, I recommend this news from the AJC:
The state Transportation Board is poised to declare the Downtown Connector a gateway to the state, and to help fund a makeover to pretty up some of the high-profile bridges that pass over it.
The first two are the Peachtree Street bridges that pass over the Connector and back, in Downtown and Midtown.
“This lets the traveling public know the city of Atlanta is the capital city,” said DOT board president Johnny Floyd. “We want to showcase it and make sure it looks good.”
The makeover, according to the Midtown Alliance, will include colored under-lighting for night time and the words “Peachtree Street” in lights, as well as sculptured fences and sidewalks on the surface level over the I-85/I-75 interchange.
The Department of Transportation’s board approved the expense on Thursday. DOT will put $1.7 million toward the $5 million project for two bridges. Three other bridges would follow later, said DOT board member Sam Wellborn.
Yes, this must be the best way to spend $5 million in transportation funding (the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District is to contribute some of the money). Just think how pretty Peachtree Street will look as motorists are stuck in traffic on or underneath it!
Now, before you say, “It’s only $5 million. How much traffic relief could we get for that kind of money?” — I have numbers.
The T-SPLOST list included mostly projects that cost millions, if not tens or hundreds of millions, of dollars. But it also included some less expensive projects, particularly in the city of Atlanta.
In fact, there were 14 Atlanta projects that each cost less than $1 million. For $5 million, we could complete the nine cheapest of these — including some projects in the Downtown/Midtown vicinity: improvements along 10th Street, 14th Street, Edgewood Avenue, North Avenue and others, with almost $275,000 to spare. Or we could see some other combination of projects adding up to $5 million.
Admittedly, I didn’t spend a lot of time examining these smaller-scale projects leading up to the July 31 referendum. I don’t know how much congestion relief we’d get from them. But if they made the cut to be on the list, they almost certainly would be more worthwhile than putting some street names in fancy lights on interstate overpasses.
Ah, but what about this line from the AJC story?
The DOT money comes from signs near highway exits that advertise businesses at upcoming rest stops. That money is dedicated to making “gateways” to the state attractive.
Shouldn’t that stipulation preclude the money from being spent on traffic improvements rather than sprucing up our roads? I dunno; ask me again after the state has stopped diverting other fee revenues from the purposes prescribed by the laws creating them.
In any case, I can think of few ways to make a state “gateway” more “attractive” than ensuring motorists can exit the Downtown Connector and actually get to where they’re going. That strikes me as a relevant and better use of the money.
A big part of the public distrust regarding the T-SPLOST was the idea that the state is already spending money as wisely as possible. This is one more episode that makes the skeptics say, “Told you so!”
– By Kyle Wingfield