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 editor@reporternewspapers.net.

By Bob Dallas

Bob Dallas

Nobody likes to pay taxes and the only good tax is one another pays.  But with the stifling congestion and lackluster growth in our metro-Atlanta region, we are paying a tax none of us is able to afford:  too much time stuck in traffic and a lagging economy which is sapping our ability to attract high paying jobs.

On July 31, each of us will be given the opportunity to choose the course of metro-Atlanta’s future.  A yes vote for the T-SPLOST means we are willing to invest in a balanced transportation plan that moves the needle.  It means we do make a dent in our congestion in each of the ten counties in our region and provides the means to attract and accommodate incredible growth without exacerbating congestion.  A no vote means we keep the status quo:  congestion and a regional economy which over the past decade has fallen from amongst the first, to amongst the worst.

Here are 10 reasons why voting yes is the right:

#1 We have a problem.
Everyone agrees that traffic in metro Atlanta has gotten so bad that we must do something about it – including TSPLOST opponents! Metro Atlanta is the 3rd fastest growing region in the nation but Georgia ranks 48th in per capita transportation funding. It is no wonder metro Atlanta now has some of the longest commutes in the country, averaging an hour or more.

2 Jobs!
The TSPLOST projects will create jobs. Metro Atlanta is suffering worse than any other major metro region with the recession. Passing the transportation referendum will benefit our economy four-fold with every dollar spent on transportation. 200,000 additional jobs will also be supported by the projects.

#3 The tax is time limited.
Unlike the tolls on GA-400, the TSPLOST is limited to 10 years. And it could only continue with another vote by the people in 2022. This is truly limited government.

#4 This will make a difference.
If passed, the TSPLOST will greatly reduce congestion throughout the region. Metro Atlanta claims 7 of the top 100 most congested interchanges in the nation! These interchanges plus dozens of other bottlenecks are on the project list and will be funded by the referendum. GA-400 and I-285 is the most unreliable interchange in the country. This project will ease congestion by 32 percent for over 300,000 daily vehicles that travel there.

#5 We have lost our edge.
We have fallen behind our economic competitors. Atlanta competes for jobs with other regions like Denver, Salt Lake City, Charlotte and Dallas. Each of these competitors are making signifcant investments in their transportation systems and it shows – their companies are attracting our young and talented workforce.

#6 Lost control.
Local citizens and leaders developed the project list. In fact, over 200,000 citizens provided input in the development of the final list. The projects came from existing transportation plans developed by transportation experts, planners and engineers.

#7 Avoid toll roads and higher gas tax.
The alternatives to a regional sales tax are dire. It would take a whopping 25 cent increase in the gas tax just to raise what a one penny sales tax would generate. The other likely options are unlimited toll roads and more HOT lanes, which would have no public input, sunset date, or a vote of the public. These solutions also ignore transit which cannot receive gas tax funding.

#8 Take cars off the road.
Every world class community needs transit as a transportation option. Nearly 500,000 citizens use MARTA each day and our region offers other choices such as GRTA express buses, Gwinnett and Cobb County Transit buses. Major events, like the Olympics, Super Bowl and Final Four, require transit options when selecting a host city. We can’t afford to lose these opportunities and need alternatives for our residents and out of town visitors.

#9 Get home faster.
63 percent of workers in Atlanta work outside their home county. The project list provides connectivity across the region for workers trying to get to jobs and provides choices and options to lessen their commute. Just saving 15 minutes a day off of commute times would give citizens over an hour of extra time each week to spend with family and friends.

#10 Unprecedented accountability.
A new level of accountability and transparency is required by law. A Citizens Oversight Panel will perform annual audits of each project – providing public access to the reports. The projects must stay on budget and on time to receive reimbursement.  The local 15percent  will be overseen by our local elected officials.

If this was an easy decision, our elected officials would have resolved our transportation problems long ago.  Instead, they punted it to us, the people of metro-Atlanta.

A no vote means we maintain the status quo.  A yes vote means we invest in our economy and compete on the world stage.

It is as simple as this:  are you willing to invest in a balanced transportation system which supports the job and lifestyle you want, or a job where you cannot even afford a penny?