The Transit Tax - What's In it For Roswell?

I have intentionally stayed quiet while all of the wrangling has been going on to shave the list of transit projects down from roughly $23 billion to the $6.14 billion.  This was in part to keep me from getting my hopes up and then dashed when projects were cut from the list.  Fair warning, the current constrained list (pdf) of $6.14B is by no means the final list.  There will be wrangling all the way through Oct of this year when the final list is selected by the Regional Roundtable.  However, we’re closer now than ever.  So, there are two questions I have:

 

  1. What’s in it for Roswell?
  2. Should Roswell vote for it?

 

Let’s start by taking a look at what’s in it for Roswell.  The first thing that I noticed was that most of the road projects in the North Subregion are slated to receive full funding, $440M total.  The Roswell specific road projects would receive $133M.  This is roughly 2% of the available pie and Roswell represents about 2% of the region’s population.  Seems fair to me.  The tax would also kick in $37M of the $900M needed to bring rail to the Holcomb Bridge/400 interchange.  Here’s a list of the projects that directly impact Roswell: 

 

  • SR 9 (Atlanta Street) from Chattahoochee River to SR 120 (Marietta Highway) ‐ Widening and Corridor Improvements - $20.4M  - This is a project that is near and dear to my heart as I live along the corridor and am part of the Community Advisory Group.  This funding will significantly help accomplish the goals that the community has in mind.  However, I am concerned that the use of regional funds will take away some of the leverage that the community would have in ensuring that the environment improves not only the traffic flow but the community it flows through.
  • SR 140 (Houze Road) from Rucker Road to Mansell Road ‐ Operational Improvements - $18.6M - I’m not sure of the exact details on this one.
  • SR 400 at SR 140 (Holcomb Bridge Road) ‐ Interchange Improvements - $48M - This has been a long time coming.  The city has proposed some minor changes to the intersection in the short term but this should help improve overall flow and capacity at the interchange while also enabling the city to kick in some for aesthetics.  We need a gateway to Roswell and this is our chance.
  • SR 140 (Arnold Mill Road) from Cherokee County Line to Rucker Road ‐ Widening - $46M - As you know, I’m not a widening fan but given our current situation in this area, this one is a necessary evil.  
  • MARTA North Heavy Rail Line Extension to SR 140 - $37M - It’s a start.  But, it might be better spent on something that’s actually going to happen such as the Beltline or the Cobb Light Rail.

 

Another absolutely huge project that will impact North Fulton is the improvement of the interchange at 400 & 285.  In the current list, there is $450M budgeted for this project.  Considering that the northern section of 285 between 75 and 85 is consistently recognized as one of the most congested roads in Atlanta, if not the nation, I’d say this is a big win.  Improving flow at this interchange could significantly improve commutes for many Roswell and North Fulton residents.

 Some other personal favorites of mine are:

 

  • Atlanta Beltline Streetcar Circulator and Trail - $601.8M
  • Northwest Corridor (Acworth to Arts Center Station) Fixed Guideway Transit ‐ Phase 1 from Midtown to Cumberland - $856.5M

 

So, should we vote for it?  All in all, I believe there is a good mix of Transit and Road projects on this list and it should definitely be considered seriously.  Here’s a quick list of Pro’s and Con’s:

Pros:  

 

  • Local road projects are all virtually fully funded
  • Roswell is represented fairly
  • North Fulton may be over represented
  • It’s really our only option as a Region if we want to do something at all

 

Cons:  

 

  • Most larger projects are not fully funded and will rely on currently unknown sources of funds (federal, state &/or private public partnerships).
  • MARTA to Holcomb Bridge is a pittance with $37M and might as well be reallocated
  • More road projects than transit advocates would like to see.  Could have more bus funding in exchange for some road widening
  • Allocation of funds to specific projects is not set in stone so things could change once the dirty pols get their paws on the money
  • It is a tax albeit a small one (about $10/month per metro Atlanta resident) 

 

One last thing...  This tax will fail unless it is moved to the general election ballot.  The region deserves to be represented fairly and having this on a republican primary ballot will not generate a turnout that is representative of the region.  Fortunately, Gov. Deal gets this and has put this on the agenda for the current special session for the general assembly.   

It’s our only chance to actually move the political and traffic gridlock that has existed for the past 10 years in our region.  I’m voting for it.  I might have to give up a lunch each month but I just might save some money in gas and more importantly time.  Where it stands right now, I'm for this tax and given what our sub-region has to gain, it's hard to argue that the rest of North Fulton shouldn't be for it as well.