About a dozen citizens attended Mayor Bucky Johnson’s QA session about the Transportation Investment Act at 45 South Cafe in Norcross last Saturday (July14).
The controversial TIA, which many refer to as a TSPLOST, is a 1-percent sales tax referendum that would fund transportation projects around the region. The region, which includes local cities, would cover 10 counties: Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry and Rockdale.
A recent Rosetta Stone poll has shown a majority of voters are against the referendum, according to wsbtv.com.
As the chairman of the Atlanta Regional Transportation Round Table, Johnson discussed the TIA in length and answered questions alongside field staffer Jon Richards of Untie Atlanta, a privately funded campaign supporting the referendum.
The two explained that, if the referendum passes on the July 31st ballot, the penny tax would last 10 years starting Jan. 1, 2013, and certain projects would be underway immediately.
Time frames have been established for the project list along with three bands for collecting funds: 2013 to 2015 for the early band, 2016 to 2019 for the middle, and 2020 to 2022 for the end band. There’s also an interactive map of the projects on the Transform Metro Atlanta website.
The projects themselves were a major talking point for Johnson and Richards. The one thing the referendum concentrates on is funding roadways and public transit in areas where people work, said Johnson.
“When employers look where to locate their businesses, they look at, ‘Who can I hire that can get to my location within 45 minutes?’” he said to the crowd, which included District V Gwinnett County Public Schools Board of Education Chairwoman Louise Radloff.
Johnson said commuters would be able to move around the region 24 percent better after all the projects are done.
Locals also were concerned about the projects in and around Norcross. The biggest road transformation for the city would come at Jimmy Carter Boulevard and Buford Highway, where there would be a continuous flow intersection to eliminate congestion. Johnson also explained more work would be completed on Holcomb Bridge Road and North Peachtree Street, in addition to six miles of resurfacing.
Richards spoke of regional projects that would affect Norcross, too.
Probably the biggest projects closest to Norcross are the changes to Spaghetti Junction and Peachtree Parkway. With the junction at I-85 and I-285, the project involves re-routing the northbound exit ramps to Northcrest Road and Pleasantdale Road and improving operations on the ramps, according to the Transform Metro Atlanta website.
The TIA’s plan for S.R. 141 is to widen the road from four lanes to six lanes between Peachtree Industrial Boulevard and the Chattahoochee River. Widening parts of Buford Highway are also in the works.
Additionally, a new four-lane roadway linking Satellite Boulevard in Duluth and Hillcrest Road in Lilburn across I-85 is on the list, too.
“You’ll be able to start in Lilburn on Indian Trail and essentially go all the way to Suwanee, if you want to, without getting on the interstate,” said Richards.
One additional project that isn’t directly construction-related is the formation of a call center to help those with disabilities. Locals who call in would have representatives instruct them on what buses or rails they need to take in order to get to their destinations, according to Johnson.
While many potential voters have spoken in favor of the TIA, some who are against it have voiced that they don’t agree with its projects.
Johnson and Richards assured that the list wasn’t based off just what politicians want, though. Professionals from the Atlanta Regional Commission and local Departments of Transportation made recommendations for projects and presented them to the 21 politicians from the 10 counties, who voted unanimously in favor of it.
Toward the end of the QA, someone asked what would happen if the referedum doesn’t pass.
If the TIA doesn’t receive more than 50 percent of the vote, according to Johnson and Richards, it would take at least two years, possibly four years, for another transportation referendum to be on the ballot.
And because these projects were proposed from the ARC, the projects would still take place…”it just wouldn’t take place in our lifetime,” said Johnson.
While he’s a full supporter of the TIA, Johnson admitted that it won’t solve all of Atlanta’s transportation problems.
“It’s not going to be a silver bullet, but it’s going to start a process that will get us out of where we are,” he said.
Peachtree Corners residents Pat and Julie Minnucci said they will vote in favor of the TIA because they believe it would benefit public transit, especially since they use it on a daily basis and when they travel.
They especially favored the light rail project from the Lindbergh MARTA station to the CDC area and Emory University.
“We always feel like here in the U.S., we don’t use [public transit] the way we ought to,” said Julie Minnucci. “We don’t have the extensive work that we should to move people around.”
“I like the economic development,” said Pat Minnucci about the penny tax. “We put this much, and we get a 4-to-1 return with jobs in the area and like that.”
Voters will be able to vote on the referendum July 31. They also can submit an absentee ballot or participate in early voting before then. For more information on the Transportation Investment Act, visit transformmetroatlanta.com.