Q: Will you vote in favor of the transportation referendum?
A: I honestly don’t know. When I was at the state level, I fought to make it so that we could try to get some regional decisions made in transportation that were truly addressing the areas of congestion. One of the things that we did was to make certain that the tolls on 400 were used for 400 instead of sent around the state. It’s clear that we need some transportation solutions and expansion of capacity in the metropolitan area. I’m not certain that this bill was the right way to go at it. I didn’t have a hand in it at all obviously because it was at the state level.
Q: How will you make up your mind?
A: I think you got to weigh whether or not the project list and the increase in capacity or lack thereof justifies the increased tax and whether or not the regional nature of it is sufficient.
Q: The largest expenditure on Cobb’s project list is $689 million earmarked for “enhanced premium transit service” from Acworth to the MARTA Arts Center Station in Midtown, which Tim Lee said will be used for bus rapid transit and may be upgraded to light rail with federal funding. Do you believe that is a wise expenditure?
A: I’m not aware of any study that demonstrates that the capacity study that that would relieve justifies that expenditure, but I believe that local decisions ought to be the ones that determine where the resources go, so if that’s what is determined to be the priority for Cobb County residents, and it’s determined locally and has the buy-in of folks here and people go into it with eyes wide open, then it’s hard for me to criticize that, but I can’t imagine that there aren’t other projects that would provide greater capacity for the region.
Q: If the TIA passes, do you believe the $689 million “enhanced premium transit” earmark will turn out to be spent on light rail?
A: I’m not close enough to that decision to know that, but I do know that the federal funding, as I said last time we were together, is I don’t believe forthcoming in any predictable level. What we are fighting for at the federal level is to increase Georgia’s return on its gas tax money, that we continue to be a donor state, and as you know, I’ve fought from the day I got in Washington to decrease our donor status so that we get more Georgia hard earned tax payer money back to Georgia to be able to utilize in appropriate ways.
Q: If President Obama is re-elected and Republicans lose Congress, do you think a Democratic Washington is more likely to fund rail for this project than your side?
A: Well, neither of those things are going to happen, but I think it’s clear that folks on the Left tend to be believe in greater efficacy in mass transit than would be supported by the evidence of relieving congestion and increasing capacity.
Q: The Left does seem to love MARTA.
A: I know.
Q: Why is that?
A: I don’t know. There are these knee-jerk reactions that folks have to solutions that aren’t based upon evidence or data. One of my concerns about where we are right now is that we haven’t looked at the projects I believe that actually increase capacity or decrease congestion. That for some reason these things got on the list, many of them that were somebody’s either pet project or some political calculus. Now that being said, we’re 49th in the nation in terms of what we spend on transportation. We can’t remain the leader of the Southeast if we continue that. So we’ve got to move forward from a transportation standpoint. Atlanta became the wonderful metropolitan area that it is for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is being a transportation hub.
Q: Based on what you’ve heard in your district, will the referendum pass?
A: It’s a tough read. Most of my constituents sit in traffic every day regardless of where they are in the Sixth District of Georgia, but most of them sit in traffic every day. Most of them are terribly frustrated by that, so there is a sense that something needs to get done. For those that have looked at the project list there are some reasonable things on it for Sixth District constituents, and there are other things that they say, ‘well, why would we spend any money on that?’ The Fulton and DeKalb folks want to know why they’re spending another penny when they already spend a penny on MARTA and nobody else covers that in the metropolitan area, so there are pros and cons clearly.