Drop rail link and restore reversible I-75 lanes, says Cobb Commission chair Tim Lee

Cobb County Commission Chairman Tim Lee and Kennesaw Mayor Mark Mathews just finished a surprise presser at the state Capitol, where they said they would pursue a reworking of Cobb projects to be paid for by the penny sales tax that comes up for a vote in July.

Dump a new rail spur from Atlanta to the Cumberland area, they said, in order to restore the reversible toll lanes project up I-75/575.

The state Department of Transportation, prompted by Gov. Nathan Deal, canceled bidding for it last month. Deal in his State of the State address said he was “opposed to contracting away Georgia’s sovereignty for a period of 60 to 70 years” on the road.

The rail link to Atlanta is by far the most controversial item on the Cobb project list – and Lee faces a primary challenge concurrent with the T-SPLOST vote on July 31. But he said that wasn’t a factor.

Lee and Mathews were Cobb’s two representatives on the roundtable committee that drew up the list of projects for the 10-county metro Atlanta area.

The governor’s decision to drop the reversible toll lanes in Cobb has changed his county’s priorities, Lee said. “If we knew funding was in jeopardy, we would have treated [toll lane funding] as a priority,” he said.

But changing the Cobb list would require an act of the Legislature, something that House Speaker David Ralston has said he would be reluctant to allow. Lee and Mathews were accompanied by Senate Majority Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock, and state Sen. Lindsey Tippins, R-Kennesaw. Both admitted this would be a heavy lift.

But Rogers twice said that the governor was committed to finding the cash to replace the private-public funding that he nixed in December. So what we may be seeing is a very public, politely worded message to Deal: Please find the funding for those new lanes up I-75, or Cobb may sink the T-SPLOST for the whole metro area.

My AJC colleague Janel Davis will have a full report in tomorrow’s paper.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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51 comments Add your comment

Lynn

January 24th, 2012
4:51 pm

Once again, Cobb County makes a really stupid transit decision. The Republican Party: taking you back to the 1950’s…whether you like it or not.

B. Thenet

January 24th, 2012
4:54 pm

Thank God I have a reverse commute up I-75. This group of legislators could screw up a bake sale, much less engineeer a reversible toll lane project.

Never gonna pass!

January 24th, 2012
4:55 pm

This is a waste of time! This issue is so dead with Mayor Reed as the leading advocate of it…

Jeb

January 24th, 2012
4:56 pm

How does this affect the Dawgs’ 2012 recruiting class?

PR

January 24th, 2012
4:57 pm

Just shows the stupidty of metro Atlanta. With no real mass transit Atlanta will not grow and businesses will leave. More highways and gridlock is not the answer.

Jose

January 24th, 2012
4:58 pm

The issue for both Lee and Mathews is that they think that somehow rail will bring “undesirables” into their little compounds. The truth is that rail accessibility will 1) increase home values and 2) spur adjacent economic development. Lee and Mathews, though, are stuck in the 1950’s view that we can build more and more and more and more and more lanes and that somehow we can stay ahead of traffic. They are fools.

Dumb and Dumber

January 24th, 2012
5:01 pm

Yup, that toll lane in Gwinnett is working great, let’s spend $700 million on another one….and why not prefer roads to transit? Building roads is what made Atlanta great!

Or was that the airport?

Bigdawg

January 24th, 2012
5:03 pm

Lynn, Jose, PR – word! I’ve been here since 1970, and it’s still the same bigoted voices who keep Atlanta in the Dark Ages.

Atlanta Native

January 24th, 2012
5:10 pm

Once again Cobb County pols Lee, Matthew, Rogers and Tippin exhibit the lack of foresight and lack of guts that has for years produced NO mass transit, bridge projects to dump Cobb traffic into Fulton, a daily traffic nightmare on 75 and Cobb busses on Atlanta streets.

The tra-idiot-tion of Cobb “leaders” is a hindrance not only to Cobb Countians but to everyone – resident or traveller – in the metro area. Please pull your provincial heads out of the sand and keep up with the times.

Harry Callahan

January 24th, 2012
5:11 pm

Liberals are so funny. MARTA is only funded 25% by fares collected. The rest of it is a taxpayer funded boondoggle of epic proportions. We could buy these people cars, insurance, and gasoline for what it costs to run MARTA. People of Cobb don’t want this because they can do some basic arithmetic. How does opposition to an inefficient transfer of wealth like MARTA and/or ril transit make one a racist/bigot/dark ages dweller? Oh wait…answering that question would require a liberal to actually THINK, which is totally unreasonable.

Jackie

January 24th, 2012
5:12 pm

I would not vote to spend limited transit funds on a link between Cumberland and the Arts Center. There are SO many more worthy projects in the Metro area than this one.Like many voters, I am not automatically in favor of all transit projects, not matter what. We need transit proposals that make the metro work better for all of us. Moving people in and out of the city center is no longer the primary transit issue we must address. This project was a boondoggle. Tim Lee will likely lose his job for pushing a project that was not in the best interests of his constituents.

James

January 24th, 2012
5:13 pm

OOOOHHH. “Cobb Buses on Atlanta streets”. There is a bigot talking.

Serious Robuck

January 24th, 2012
5:15 pm

Absolutely amazing. Can we be a big city or not? Not with our current crop of Republican dimwits in charge. Bigdawg, your succinct comment is exactly the point.

575Commuter

January 24th, 2012
5:22 pm

It seems these politicians don’t want MARTA so they can keep the undesirables IN Cobb rather than out. After all, to think it is acceptable for taxpayers to continue to suffer through 45 minute commutes or longer if there is an accident or bad weather.

None of these decisions are about servicing the constituency, its about what they think they need to do to look good enough to run for the next office. Voters be damned we were just the peons they had to step on to get into office. I say vote them out of office…

blah

January 24th, 2012
5:22 pm

MARTA doesn’t do anything for development except bring apartments and lots of single mommas too poor to afford a car. Ask Chamblee, Doraville or any of the areas along the East West line.

By definition, if a school is within walking distance of Marta it’s probably in the lowest 20th percentile of achievement. (unless you’re talking about Dunwoody, but no one who actually lives there uses Marta daily to get to their jobs, only to Braves games)

Ooooh, I’ve just gotta buy a home in West End or Bankhead Homes where I can walk to MARTA and never have to worry about violent schools or having 3 break-ins a week!!

Cobb commuter

January 24th, 2012
5:28 pm

I commute down 575 to 75 and get off right by the ArtCenter Station for work 5 days a week. I can drive and be on the road anywhere between 45 mintues to 2 hours per trip. I can take the Express Bus for $5 and ride my way into the city and have a stress free trip. We definitely need help in Cobb….that corridor is a blessed nightmare. I don’t know what the answer is. I presonally would love a train that would take me from Town Center Mall to Atlanta, but you all think that is crazy. It’s crazy that I have only one road to get to work and that it is a stand still to get into the city in the morning and afternoon. What a mess!!

markie mark

January 24th, 2012
5:28 pm

Lynn, Cobb was Democratic when the original votes were taken back in the 70’s….take your prejudice down a notch, and you will realize this was/is not a R or D thing, its a county mindset thing…..

DannyX

January 24th, 2012
5:31 pm

Whose stupid idea was the whole T-SLOST disaster anyway?

Oh yeah, it was the Republicans, that figures…

The Republicans not wanting to go against their own “no new taxes” rule cowardly punted this to the voters.

Then they stacked the project list committee with local suburban Republican leaders.

Then the suburban Republican dominated committee decided what transportation projects would be paid for with the new tax.

Now we have suburban Republican leaders trying to get the cowardly Republican state legislature to change the project list because they didn’t like what the suburban Republican committee agreed to.

What a mess.

southern hope

January 24th, 2012
5:31 pm

I walk to MARTA every day. And I live in a neighborhood full of half-million dollar homes.

As far as undesirables, my fear is that more Cobb County residents will end up on our streets. (okay, kidding, but that argument is so nutty).

markie mark

January 24th, 2012
5:34 pm

DannyX, if you ever post anything on any blog that does not blame Republicans for everything, now THAT would be amazing…..

findog

January 24th, 2012
5:35 pm

does not matter, the T-SPLOST is not going to pass
Deal has kept the 400 toll booths open, not one durn cent more!

Realist

January 24th, 2012
5:35 pm

I lived in Cobb for years and telecommuted much of that time instead of going into our headquarters in mid town. The concept of a central work area downtown is a throwback to the 20th Century! Get in the 21st Century guys!

Mark

January 24th, 2012
5:40 pm

Harry Callahan, what percentage of road funding comes from fares collected? And don’t say the gas tax, because that is not a fare, it’s a tax, just like MARTA is partly funded with tax revenues.

Mama Says

January 24th, 2012
5:45 pm

Can we drop the party slander and just agree its stupid please. My God it’s not all bad republicans and bad democrats. Sometimes it’s just stupid people with a lack of vision.

They are all over the place and they come from both parties

Roadrunner

January 24th, 2012
5:48 pm

Why all of a sudden do we all need to embrace toll lanes? Aren’t we still paying almost a majority of our income in taxes? Aren’t there funds in there somewhere that can continue building new roads & highways when & where they are needed? What else are we spending all of our hard earned money on if we can’t afford this? Toll lanes are a rip-off that just keeps taking long after they are ‘paid off’. We don’t need more toll roads, we just need to spend our tax money on things like infrastructure that promote even more commerce and less on BS & income redistribution projects that are only a drag on our producers.

Likeplainoldsuburbs

January 24th, 2012
5:49 pm

Bringing the animals of ATL to the civilization of Cobb is not progress. At least not for Cobbers.

Paddy O

January 24th, 2012
5:50 pm

This is why the metro atlanta area has the gigantic traffic & land use problems it does – lousy leadership. It might also explain why Alabama consistently cleans Georgia’s clock on the water war. BAD leadership.

GA needs to wake up

January 24th, 2012
5:50 pm

It amazes me that we are still trying to build roads in Atlanta. We have tried this approach before which is why we are where we are. The answer is transit, but smart transit. Building additional roads which will eventually get clogged is short-sighted and shallow. The discussion/thought that MARTA will bring “undesirables” is getting old as well. I somewhat understand this backwards logic, however, “undesirables” in 2012 have cars and live all over the Metro Atlanta area, to include outside the perimeter in some cases. For Atlanta to ever become the world class city that it deserves to be, we need to vote these clowns posing as politicians out of office and replace them with leaders who can envision and shape Atlanta over the next 20 – 30 years and beyond. I must say…..I am baffled that in 2012, we are wanting to build more roads. Unreal.

JUST VOTE NO

January 24th, 2012
5:50 pm

Just vote no to the t-splost, they have used, abused, lied, cheated, corrupted, stolen, and done just about anything else to remove our money from our pockets and given us very little if anything in return, I pity those folks in Gwinnett who paid for lanes, in good faith, that they now can’t use unless they want to pay to ride in them!!! What a joke, and unfortunately the jokes on them. Kind of like the 400 toll booths that are paid for, that we are still paying for.

DawgDad

January 24th, 2012
5:50 pm

Put reversible toll lanes in and REQUIRE trucks to use them. Simple solution.

@Mark

January 24th, 2012
5:52 pm

The gas tax doesn’t even cover all road costs

Eric

January 24th, 2012
5:54 pm

Maybe we don’t need additional rail or roads, but encourage transportation and population growth (if it must happen) in other parts of the state. Metro Atlanta has enough people already!

Paddy O

January 24th, 2012
5:57 pm

If anyone has any experience getting a transportation project from idea to construction, then you know GDoT has only one master – GDoT – the agency viewpoint there is astounding – BUT, GA does have the best roads around, particularly when you consider population density. HOWEVER, contrary to what dim bulb Danny X says, HB 277 is the perfect legislation for GA: Let locals select projects that improve their region, then let the citizens of that region cast a vote on whether to accept that project list. Luckily, the rest of the state is not captive to the dunce caps in metro Atlanta. When I head to TN, I never set foot in ATL – take 27 to 53 to 75 – excellent four lane highways the entire stretch. For those who gripe about your commute – go live where your bloody job is – you can solve your problem yourself if you have the desire.

Paddy O

January 24th, 2012
5:58 pm

just vote no – that is complete crap. GA state gov’t is pretty cheap, and the amenities in GA pretty darn nice, even under inept republican rule.

Paddy O

January 24th, 2012
5:59 pm

just vote no – exactly how much did those specific folk pay for those lanes? However, I agree the HOT lanes are some dumb California idea. But disengenuous “facts” just make you lose credibility.

Nicholas

January 24th, 2012
6:02 pm

Lived in Atlanta for going on 2 years and it never ceases to amaze me how incredibly near-sighted your politicians and much of the metro population are. More highway lanes, more gridlock and more sprawling development out in the exurbs is not the answer to the regions long list of transit problems. People wonder why companies no longer choose ATL as a relocation spot. The city’s unsustainable urban sprawl, horrendous congestion and lack of urban planning are the reason the city will continue to miss out on lucrative corporate relocations and job growth. I see Atlanta on a long downward trajectory, as the region has outgrown its existing infrastructure and refuses to take a serious look at ways to solve the issues so that the city will remain a beacon of economic growth in the southeast.

Gumby

January 24th, 2012
6:02 pm

Our Cobb leaders are idiots. The really need rail transit all the way up to Town Center-Kennesaw, not just Cumberland, It would get more cars off the commuters off the roads and increase business in both directions. It also needs to go to south to Turner Field.

Bhorsoft

January 24th, 2012
6:05 pm

Just like when Marta rail started years ago. We don’t want “those people” to come here to Cobb. They might break into our homes, steal our TVs and use the train to make a getaway.

Why do we keep electing these dumb yahoos to office?!? Maybe because smart people are too smart to run for any office?

casey

January 24th, 2012
6:08 pm

I live in Cobb, and Cobb County leaders need to get their heads out of their asses! More highways are not going to help our already over-stressed highway infrastructure. Those HOT lanes are nothing but a disaster. I DON”T want my tax money funding those here. We need to look ahead and think of different forms of mass transit. Rail, ride sharing, and other initiatives are a perfect way to being to alleviate the stress on our roads. Maybe Cobb leaders need to do some investigative work and look at what other communities across America are doing. Let’s face it, Cobb’s leaders are drowning us. I know where my votes will be in the future.

RockyRoad

January 24th, 2012
6:14 pm

The money is there if they ( Federal and State Legislature) would quite diverting the road use Taxes, fuel taxes, ect. to other special interest projects. Last year less than 42% of fuel(gas, diesel) and road use taxes were actually used for the roads. Of that 42% the Ga. DOT wasted almost 30% of that on non road use projects.

BOB FROM ACCOUNT TEMPS

January 24th, 2012
6:30 pm

maybe reed can run the trolly tracks into cobb

DawgDad

January 24th, 2012
6:32 pm

“unsustainable urban sprawl” From over five decades of personal observation I can attest urban sprawl IS sustainable, and highly unlikely to abate except at the point of a loaded gun. Go find a vintage 1960 map of virtually any city.

Dumb and Dumber

January 24th, 2012
6:58 pm

I agree with Harry Callahan. Since roads pay for themselves and don’t need taxes, we should only build roads and no trains, buses or any “mass transit” which relies on subsidies.

You betcha!

Cobb Employee

January 24th, 2012
7:01 pm

I work for Cobb County and I can tell you one thing…. I haven’t had a raise in years, yet Tim Lee raised our taxes and wants to raise them again with the TSLPOST. I’m supporting Bill Byrne for Commission Chair. Tim has screwed the worker bees long enough.

All transportation is subsidized!

January 24th, 2012
7:29 pm

Roads, Airports, Transit, Rail – all depended in some part on initial federal participation to build them – some operate at profits – some Airports and Airlines, Freight Rail and some passenger rail systems, toll roads – in Georgia only one road is not subsidized and that is Georgia 400 all others receive federal and state subsidies. We should aim for smart and smarter.

Mama Says

January 24th, 2012
7:34 pm

The problem does encompass the entire metro.

Clayton County has secured funds in the SPLOST for a renewed bus system. This time it will be the state that is 7million in the hole instead of the county. There was a reason they got rid of it, it was in the red every year. Now somehow it will be self sustaining. Clayton is in democrats hands.

Henry has secured money for more roads. I wrote B J Mathis and asked for a progressive modern transportation plan that started with light rail. You would think the 2 nd fastest growing county for 4 consecutive years would need that. But apparently we don’t, I was told that was to expensive and that the northern counties were just considering it. Guess we have to wait 20 years until every road is 6 lanes and it cost 6 times as much. Henry is republican

None of them should be in control of our money, they simply cannot think through problems, they are to near sighted.

ideas

January 24th, 2012
8:13 pm

The traffic problems on I-75 is all the tractor trailer trucks going to and from South Ga. and Florida. I have been driving downtown since before I-75 was built. If they would create and force trucks from the Cobb northern border to I 285 onto a truck only toll lane, both directions, the traffic problem would be cleared. But the truck lobby has too much money to the politicos to allow that simple solution. Let the truckers pay for what they use and get them off of 75 in Cobb. A lot less money and revenue to pay for it.

Don

January 24th, 2012
8:25 pm

” MARTA is only funded 25% by fares collected. The rest of it is a taxpayer funded boondoggle of epic proportions.” Name one type of transportation that isn’t subsidized? Road construction funds come largely from the general fund, not gas taxes. Who pays for the faa, and airport construction? taxpayers. Rail is similarly subsidized.

dagnabit

January 24th, 2012
9:38 pm

This Metro commission thinks that Cobb is going to tax themselves for a Marta station at Cumberland so Cobb roads can remain congested.But Atlanta roads can get some relief? If the Metro commission will go for an above ground rail line up “41″ to Acworth with 4 or 5 stations inside the county, then that will relieve congestion on i-75 and i-575. Problem solved.

Blackblueredneck

January 24th, 2012
9:48 pm

I just so proud to live in Georgia. I work at parttime at burgerking, my kids have no health insurance. because I how to keep car insurance.But in again I will be voting republican because they say they can fix it and make it better for us. that how we vote in the red state georgia.