The Livable Communities Coalition

Working to improve Atlanta's quality of life through smart growth

Atlanta Regional Transportation Roundtable sets schedule to avert gridlock

Roundtable members wrestled with the written intent of the Transportation Investment Act at the Sep. 16 roundtable meeting. Norcross Mayor Bucky Johnson successfully established consensus on the procedural matter of introducing amendments and set a schedule to develop a final project list by the Oct. 15 deadline.

ATLANTA – The full 21-member Atlanta Regional Transportation Roundtable attended to administrative and procedural issues at Friday’s meeting.

Considering what is at stake for the region – a $6.14 billion shot in the arm to mitigate traffic and make strategic investments in transportation infrastructure – a procedural matter loomed large over the meeting.

The roundtable sought clarification on their next steps for negotiating and approving the final project list by the Oct. 15 deadline.

As roundtable chairman Bucky Johnson explained, “There’s a little bit of a quirk in the bill that basically says you have to reject the draft list in order to have amendments.”

While the roundtable’s executive committee has already approved a draft project list, which the full roundtable could simply adopt without any changes, many expect
the list to change.

To simplify matters and support the work that went into the draft project list, Johnson proposed “we talk about the amendments and get consensus on the amendments, and
then [Oct. 6] in one motion say we reject the list in favor of this amended list.

What we’re talking about today is a schedule and a process.”

Friday’s meeting established that the roundtable will use the Sep. 25 and Oct. 6 meetings to introduce and reach consensus on amendments.

And for all the talk about a regional transportation network leading up to the Aug. 15 meeting, there remains a question about being able to fulfill that vision
without the proposed Griffin commuter rail line, which did not make the executive committee’s draft project list.

According to Georgians for Passenger Rail chief executive officer Gordon Kenna, the roundtable should reconsider the Griffin commuter rail line because it will bring critical development to south metro Atlanta and there is already $30 million in available federal funding available to jumpstart the proposed line.

The Georgia chapter of the Sierra Club also hopes the roundtable will reconsider its position not only on the Griffin commuter line but also a road project in Gwinnett County that would resurrect a portion of the failed Northern Arc. The Gwinnett leg is projected to cost an estimated $296 million.

“This is a good list, but we’re looking a great list,” Sierra Club Georgia chapter director Colleen Kiernan said. “We’re very disappointed by [inclusion of] the Sugarloaf Pkwy extension in the Gwinnett project list.

We think that if that money could be transferred to transit up I-85 that may be something that voters will be inspired by.”

It also remains to be seen whether the full $602 million proposed allocation for the Atlanta Beltline will survive the negotiations. Already, mayors from Johns
Creek, Roswell and Sandy Springs have expressed their opposition to funding the BeltLine project at that level, a condition that has raised the ire of Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed.

Amid the lingering questions regarding the projects, a handful of roundtable members expressed their anxiety about the proposed schedule, the roundtable’s ability to make further amendments beyond Oct. 6 and the possibility of missing the Oct. 15 deadline.

Notably, Cobb County Commission chairman Tim Lee raised that concern, perhaps anticipating some political pressure regarding the proposed Cumberland light rail line, which has raised some controversy in Cobb County.

“Basically, what you are saying here is that we need to be done by the 6th,” Lee said.

“Do you or do you not have the right to call a special meeting in order for us to discuss that at a date that allows staff enough time?” Lee inquired further.

Jane Hayse, division chief of transportation planning at the Atlanta Regional Commission, clarified the roundtable’s obligation to deliver 4 items by the Oct. 15th
deadline. Those deliverables are:

  1. A final project list;
  2. The project schedule;
  3. A revenue forecast;
  4. And, the total cost for the projects included on the final project list.

While acknowledging the roundtable’s difficult task, Livable Communities Coalition executive director Ray Christman reminded the roundtable about the significance of this effort – and the place transit ought to occupy.

“This is truly a big deal; the question between now and next July is whether we will push this across the goal line or fumble away the opportunity,” Christman said.
“Just as any football team that’s any good needs to be able to both run and pass the ball, any modern successful metropolitan region needs to be able to move people by both roads and transit.

Any retreat from [transit] portions of the existing draft list would be met by serious disappointment by tens of thousands of voters that polls and surveys have showed are looking for an expanded transit vision for this region.”

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