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