There's a lack of trust among voters for the transportation referendum this summer, said panelists at a roundtable luncheon held by the Perimeter Community Improvement Districts.
Still the measure is important for the region, one of the worst in the nation for traffic gridlock.
“Think if it’s passed in other regions and not Atlanta. What would that mean,” asked Chris Carpenter, a partner with Peachtree Battle Group. “There is more money raised by this sales tax [from] those other 11 regions than the 10 counties in the Atlanta area.”
Carpenter said it’s all about interconnectivity. For example, highways from the Port of Savannah will carry containers throughout the state. “The interconnectivity in the state and business in the state are dependent on what’s going on in other areas,” he added.
The luncheon was held at Cox Enterprises Headquarters, last Friday. Moderated by John Heagy, chair of Dekalb PCID, the panel included Carpenter, Tad Leithead, chairman of the Atlanta Regional Commission, Kathryn Lawler, eternal affairs manager with the ARC, and Michael Paris, president and CEO of Council for Quality Growth.
If passed, the one-percent sales tax from TSPLOST would generate $8.5 billion in 157 transit and road projects over 10 years. Studies show average commuter time would be reduced by 24 percent or 15 minutes in either direction. “The value of time saved is $9.2 billion, which will go back in pockets of commuters,” Leithead said.
The tax would begin Jan 1, 2013 and run to 2022.
Interchange improvements at I-285 and Ga. 400 are on the project list. The $450 million improvements are scheduled to take place from 2020-22.
TSPLOST would generate 200,000 jobs year over year for the region, said Leithead.
According to Brandon Beach, president of the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce, executive director of the North Fulton CID and Georgia, if the tax passes, $75 million of the expected $8.5 billion collected in the Atlanta region will go toward North Fulton projects.
Beach was one of several panelists at a public information meeting on TSPLOST, on Monday, in Roswell. Several people turned out to voice their objections to the referendum.
What about the trust factor?
The Sandy Springs panelists said there will be a citizens oversight committee in place to make sure the projects are run on schedule and according to budget. Residents can also sign-up for Wireside Chats to ask officials questions on the referendum. Six sessions will be held in June. Visit the website for complete information or call 404-463-3227.
Voters can also visit www.transformmetroatlanta.com for information and a complete list of projects.
“This is an opportunity to go forward,” Leithead said. “Traffic has gotten worse. We’re not going to fix it in the first three years or even the first 10 years. But we are starting the process of bringing us back to where we should be in this great region.”
Christine Foster contributed to this story.