State Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-west Cobb) says Deal’s proposal would get the Northwest Corridor done quicker than putting it on the TIA project list.
“The problem with the light rail project (in the transportation referendum) is I think we would financially be inextricably linked in the future with a MARTA operation, even though they say this is not going to be part of MARTA,” Tippins said. “I have not done a formal poll, but I can tell you the people I talk to say that this would be a lot more relief, a lot quicker, a lot cheaper.”
State Rep. David Wilkerson (D-Austell) said Friday that he had been hearing rumors that Deal was working on funding, but didn’t know of the plan until a day or so ago.
“It is a much preferable way to fund the project than the previous (public-private) arrangement,” Wilkerson said. “I had the same concerns as the governor about having a 60 to 70 year non-compete on road building in the area.”
Wilkerson believes the proposal could help the July transportation referendum.
“It could lessen the opposition,” Wilkerson said. “The state is willing to invest heavily in solving congestion issues in the Cobb area, and we should be expected to do some of the lifting.”
State Sen. Doug Stoner (D-Smyrna) said he hoped Deal’s proposal would pave the way for the TIA, which would allow many more projects to be completed.
“We need all of these,” Stoner said. “As I tell people, to me it’s never been an either/or situation. We need all of these infrastructures to stay competitive economically.”
State Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs) believes the lanes can be built and open to traffic sooner than if they had been part of the July transportation referendum as proposed by Cobb Board of Commissioners Chairman Tim Lee.
State Rep. Rich Golick (R-Smyrna) said that while he is supportive of whatever helps traffic congestion in the 75/575 corridor, he is disappointed in the TIA project list.
“The intent of the transportation legislation two years ago was to go ahead and move people from Point A to Point B,” Golick said. “My greater concern right now is that right now we are still in a situation where local officials have utterly failed the community in following the legislative intent of the 2010 transportation bill to relieve traffic congestion. … I’m working actively to see what can be done about cleaning up the mess that some of our local officials have created for our communities.”
Golick views the 75/575 project and the TIA referendum as completely separate issues.
“Whether or not the 75/575 proposal (occurs) doesn’t change the current negative reality of the roundtable list,” Golick said. “While the 75/575 project as reported this morning is obviously extremely important to many people in Cobb County it doesn’t change the negative reality that we’re now faced with because of the bungling of the roundtable process locally.”
Golick said the roundtable hurt the TIA’s chances of getting approved by earmarking so much money to projects he believes won’t help commuters.
“There are hundreds of millions of dollars, around $600 million, dedicated to so-called bus rapid transit system that will not relieve traffic congestion, will not help people get from Point A to Point B and is an utter waste of tax payer money, and I think it’s a singular symbol of a failure so profound that we have got to do our best right now locally to do everything we can to clean up that mess that those folks created,” Golick said.
State Sen. Judson Hill (R-east Cobb) said while he needs more details, he finds Deal’s idea of using gas tax dollars to fund the 75/575 proposal attractive.
“I believe I could support using gas dollars,” Hill said. “I’m very supportive of the project moving forward, looking for a viable, fiscally responsible funding mechanism is most important and I will do anything I can to make sure we can find the monies to get it back on plan and make it happen. I was disappointed when the project was put on hold and hopefully this solution or any others is financially viable.”
Stoner moreover doesn’t believe the 75/575 project will encounter the same problems as Gwinnett County has encountered.
“The problem they had in Gwinnett was they went from a two-person carpool to a three-person carpool,” Stoner said. “We currently have nothing like that in Cobb. So we’re not taking anything away. We’re not taking any existing lanes away. We’re not increasing an HOV lane, which we do not have north of 285 in Cobb or Cherokee.”
Stoner doesn’t see how such a project would increase congestion when existing lanes are not being taken away.
“You’re adding additional capacity in the sense of these lanes, and to encourage people to carpool with three-person carpool and use transit where there would be no charge. So you’re adding additional capacity,” he said.
Deal plans to fund the $900 million toll project by using gas tax funds, along with a $270 million federal loan.
“The governor worked with the House to fulfill his promise on the Northwest Corridor,” said Deal’s spokesman, Brian Robinson. “Together, they have set aside $300 million in the supplemental budget for this vital project. Gov. Deal said during the State of the State address that this was a major priority and he would find a way to get it done.”
The $300 million fills the hole that would have come from the private funds if the state had kept the project as it originally intended through a public-private partnership, Robinson said.
Deal canceled a project in December that would have paid for the managed lanes using public and private money out of concerns that the Georgia Department of Transportation would cede control of the I-75 corridor to private investors for up to 60 years.
The initial managed lanes proposal would cover 18 miles on I-75 and 11 miles on I-575. On I-75 from I-285 to the I-575 split, it would have two elevated lanes built just west of the main highway, open to southbound traffic during morning commutes and northbound vehicles in the afternoon. North of the split, I-75 would have one managed lane in the center of the highway to Hickory Grove Road, while I-575 would have a managed lane in the center up to Sixes Road.
Voters are scheduled to decide July 31 whether to approve a 10-year penny transportation sales tax that will pay for $6.14 billion in transportation projects in a 10-county metro Atlanta area.