Panelists at a Dunwoody Chamber of Commerce forum on July 17 supported a proposed sales tax for transportation, but members of the audience didn’t sound convinced.

“You don’t have to have my seat in Skycopter Atlanta to know traffic is bad,” WSB traffic reporter Herb Emory told about 70 people attending the gathering at Dunwoody High School.

“Will this vote make traffic go away? No, but if we approve this transportation sales tax, it’ll be a step in the right direction. And we’ve been going backward. This is a chance to catch up.”

Several panelists — Bob Dallas, a Dunwoody attorney and former state transportation official who writes an occasional column on trasportation for Reporter Newspapers and, Ed Ellis, vice president of  Kimley Horn and Associates and Dunwoody Chamber Chairman Don Boyken — voiced support for the tax.

But residents at the forum questioned the portion of the tax going to transit rather than road repairs and asked why a sales tax was being considered rather than an increase in the gasoline tax.

Voters in a 10-county region of metro Atlanta will decide July 31 whether to impose a 1-cent sales tax for 10 years to finance a list of $6.1 billion in regional  transportation projects supporters say will help reduce traffic congestion. The tax also is expected to provide about $1.1 billion for projects approved by local governments. Over 10 years, with inflation, the tax could raise as much as $8 million, officials say.

Dunwoody public works director Michael Smith said Dunwoody’s share of that money was expected to total about $900,000 a year. Over the 10 years of the tax, he said, the city of Dunwoody would have 60 percent more money to spend on road projects than it would otherwise have.

“What the local funding means is we can tackle some of the intersection improvements and sidewalks faster than we would [otherwise],” he said.

Smith also said Dunwoody city officials want to oversee regional projects, including adding turn lanes and sidewalks on Mount Vernon Road, rather than have them managed by state officials.

Dunwoody Mayor Mike Davis asked the panelists what would happen if the tax is

voted down. “The immediate answer,” Dallas said, “is that if you are satisfied with what we’ve got, vote ‘no.’”

Left to right, Lawyer Bob Dallas, transportation reporter Herb Emory of WSB and Dunwoody Chamber of Commerce chairman Don Boyken appear at Dunwoody High School July 17 during a discussion of the proposed transportation sales tax.

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.