Editor’s note: Dunwoody resident Bob Dallas writes an occasional column for Reporter Newspapers and www.ReporterNewspapers.net called “Dallas On Transportation” or “DOT.” Dallas headed the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety under former Gov. Sonny Perdue. He will answer questions about public policy on transportation and related needs. Direct questions to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With a special purpose local option sales tax for regional transportation (usually called the T-SPLOST) projects on the July 31 ballot, ReporterNewspapers.net is asking knowledgeable local residents to explain their positions on T-SPLOST. In this edition of Dallas on Transportation, Dallas discusses why he will vote ‘yes.’
Bob Dallas lays out his reasons for voting yes.
By Bob Dallas
Years in the making, the T-SPLOST vote comes down to each of us deciding on whether we will invest in our future.
Considering our past public investments in our seaports, airport, rapid transit, and interstate highway systems, Georgians have realized incredible success from innovative transportation systems. It has made us world class competitors. Arguably, more high paying jobs are supported by Georgia’s transportation systems than any other industry in our state.
We are now at crossroads.
A ‘no’ vote means metro-Atlanta will not compete in attracting industries supporting higher paying jobs. A ‘yes’ vote means we will be competitive to take on any region, anywhere. It also means a future where we can grow without making our congestion worse.
Major intersections such as I-285 and Ga. 400 will be fixed and growth corridors such as Midtown Atlanta to Galleria in Cobb can be supported. Throughout the region, many of the worst-congested arterial roads will be improved, such as Mt. Vernon Road and Ashford-Dunwoody Road.
The 157 balanced traditional road and transit projects have been vetted by the transportation experts at the Georgia DOT, GRTA and the ARC. The cost for each project is conservatively estimated, meaning reserves exist to address unexpected contingencies.
The project list was created by elected officials from our cities and counties with the unprecedented input of hundreds of thousands of citizens just like you.
The more than $8 billion raised by the 10- year T-SPLOST penny sales tax will expire at the end of 10 years and by law, cannot be extended and no new projects can be added.
If another T-SPLOST is presented, in contrast to Ga. 400 tolls, you will have to vote it in and can judge whether the projects merit your investment. For the projects on the list, they will be overseen by a citizen committee to ensure they meet expectations.
Fifteen percent of the funds raised will be spent by county and city elected officials on local transportation projects. Some have identified projects which could not be built without these funds, and others have accelerated the implementation of their existing transportation plans.
For example, the cities of Sandy Springs and Dunwoody will be able to pave roads and improve intersections years sooner rather than later. The city of Atlanta has identified many new transportation projects to meet its demands. Importantly, the local projects will be governed by local officials you can hold to account.
Ironically, the most vocal opponents include groups which object to too much being spent on transit, or in contrast to too much being spent on traditional road projects.
But here are the facts: the existing transportation funding systems barely raise enough funds to maintain the systems we have.
Unless you want to increase the national deficit, Washington is not going pay for road or transit improvements as it has in the past. And who is asking to increase the gas tax? If you want more roads to accommodate traditional suburban growth, even all of the T-SPLOST funds are insufficient to pay for all the road widening that requires.
While transit does require public subsidies, so do traditional road projects. While new roads can be tolled, very few in Georgia want to toll existing roads to expand their capacity; see I-85’s managed lanes as exhibit one.
And yes, some of the proposed projects such as the BeltLine in Atlanta will do nothing to “fix” congestion in the suburban areas of metro-Atlanta. But it will facilitate billions of dollars of future growth without making congestion worse in the region’s suburban areas.
You may not use transit, but aren’t you glad others do? Or would you prefer they share an over congested lane with you? And for those who argue 100 precent of the people don’t use transit, neither do 100 precent use handicapped facilities, libraries, parks, schools and other publically funded facilities.
Some opponents argue the T-SPLOST cedes local control. Consider this: formerly the transportation projects were identified and funded through the Georgia DOT board in contrast to the open system used to identify the T-SPLOST project list. Can you name your DOT representative?
More importantly, unless you like a Balkanized transportation system, let us be grateful the projects are regional and have been vetted by the aforementioned experts. And, yes, don’t forget the local 15 percent of funds that your local elected and transportation officials will control.
The T-SPLOST transportation list may not be perfect to some because it is too big or too small on spending for traditional road or transit projects. But just like Mama Bear’s bed, T-SPLOST is balanced and just right for metro-Atlanta and all of Georgia.
And like our parents invested in our future, we should vote ‘yes’ to invest in our children’s future.