State Sen. Sally Harrell says it is time to change Georgia’s constitution so gasoline taxes can be used to pay for mass transit and not just for roads.

Harrell, whose district includes Dunwoody and portions of Brookhaven and Sandy Springs, filed Senate Resolution 654 on Jan. 30. The resolution seeks to amend the state constitution to say motor fuel taxes would be used for “public transportation” as well as the current “public roads and bridges.”

Public transportation would include roads, bridges, rails, airports, buses and seaports and the infrastructure needed for those facilities, according to the resolution.

The resolution is in response to the Georgia Department of Transportation’s controversial plans to spend $11 billion to build toll lanes on the I-285 top end and on Ga. 400 between I-285 and Alpharetta.

GDOT and MARTA are planning to run rapid transit buses on the Ga. 400 toll lanes. Mayors of cities along the top end of I-285 are also studying how to incorporate BRT into the toll lanes on that highway.

“The more I see of it, the more I don’t like it,” Harrell said of the toll lanes project at the Dunwoody Homeowners Association annual meeting on Jan. 26.

Harrell acknowledged something needed to be done to alleviate the traffic congestion along I-285, but said the reason GDOT is building toll lanes is because the state constitution prohibits the agency from using its funding on anything else.

“I believe our Georgia constitution is holding us back,” Harrell said. “I believe it’s time to start that fight … and the dialogue.”

The state’s 2020 budget includes $1.9 billion in motor fuel revenue, an increase of $30 million over the 2019 budget, according to the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute.

An amendment to the state constitution must be approved by two-thirds of the House and Senate and then put on a general election ballot for voters to decide.

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.