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Draft project list is out; ball’s in full roundtable’s court
Deal-making has long characterized politics. Deal-making also came to characterize the task of identifying the region’s transportation priorities by Monday’s deadline.
Monday, the Atlanta Regional Transportation Roundtable unanimously approved a draft final transportation project list.
The list will now be scrutinized by the full roundtable in preparation for approving a final project list by Oct. 15, as mandated by 2010’s Transportation Investment Act.
Monday’s draft list sets aside 55 percent of the $6.14 billion for transit projects, leaving 45 percent for regionally significant road projects.
As Mayor Kasim Reed said in an interview with Creative Loafing, “this is the end of the beginning.”
The next two months will test the strength of deals struck during Monday’s roundtable meeting.
The next two months will also determine whether a vision emerges from the draft project list. The roundtable will now take the list on the road and hold a series of meetings in each of 10 counties represented on the full roundtable. Effectively communicating a transportation vision will be critical to building support for next year’s tax referendum.
Kennesaw Mayor Mark Mathews and Mayor Reed proved critical to advancing Monday’s conversation to a vote.
Mayor Reed clearly came to the table ready to deal – to a point. When the conversation turned to gutting MARTA state of good repair and expansion of transit into south DeKalb County, the mayor drew a firm line in the sand, challenging other executive committee members to find different projects to cut.
“Basically, the major projects for Atlanta and DeKalb are taking the most significant cuts and there are other projects out here that can take equal cuts,” Reed argued. “I would just urge our team to try to resolve the last $130 million collaboratively rather than balancing it on the backs of Atlanta and DeKalb.”
Decatur Mayor Bill Floyd concurred with Mayor Reed, delivering an impassioned reminder to the roundtable about their obligation to ensure regional transportation solutions that make the local economy stronger and help get residents to jobs.
“This is not about spreading dollars in the right place; this is about getting people to work, “ Floyd said. “And I think that’s where we are losing sight of that for the sake of building roads.”
It was Mayor Mathews’ original motion that permitted the deal-making to begin, and it was his amended motion that finally carried the day.
“Mr. Chairman, I would like to offer up, just in an effort to get this thing closed out today, to take that $7.5 million from the northwest Cobb transit project,” Mathews said.
After 4 hours of conversation, questions about regionalism and old-fashioned horse trading, metro Atlanta finally got its draft final project list.
For the first time in more than 30 years, there may be a significant regional commitment to transit, possibly resulting in shoring up existing transit assets and expanding into new suburban territory. All that needs to be done is to refine and sell the promise of this resurgent transit vision.