Now there’s an analysis of the sales tax plan by a transportation policy analyst with the national Reason Foundation that calls in question the priorities of the Transportation Investment Act, also known as TSPLOST, expected to produce about $8.4 billion for projects in the 10-county metro Atlanta area.
For starters, analyst Baruch Feigenbaum, who did the research for the non-profit Georgia Public Policy Foundation, concluded that “funding transportation infrastructure with a sales tax is not optimal, primarily because such a tax has no relationship to usage of the transportation system.”
Transit, the major focus of the TIA sponsors, “is important for metro Atlanta’s future and deserves some regional and state funding,” the analyst said. But the TIA list “allocates proportionally excessive funding to transit. Increasing transit service, a laudable goal, should not come at the expense of developing and maintaining a quality highway network — the overwhelmingly preferred travel mode in the region.”
Feigenbaum said, “Several projects have purely economic development benefits; others have purely environmental benefits.” These, he asserted, “have no role in a transportation project list that was to be based on the best use of taxpayer dollars.”
“The biggest problem is the significant dollars allocated to rail projects,” he said. “Fixed-rail transit is most effective in an extremely dense region, which Atlanta is not. If the region wants to fund fixed-rail projects, better options would be routes along the Perimeter, in Gwinnett County, commuter rail to Athens and commuter rail to Lovejoy. The proposed I-75 rail line from Midtown to Cumberland serves a corridor with existing, quality express bus service while ignoring the far busier and more congested I-75 corridor from I-285 to Acworth. While this rail project was theoretically removed, $700 million is an extraordinarily high cost to improve bus-rapid-transit service in the corridor.”
Feigenbaum presented his findings to the TIA Regional Roundtable on Wednesday but took no position on how voters should vote, saying they have “justification for approving or rejecting” the sales tax and it’s up to them to decide. Amen.
Strong opposition was voiced at a Tuesday night panel discussion in Canton, as the Cherokee Tribune’s Kristal Dixon reported. State Rep. Sean Jerguson (R-Holly Springs), a non-voting member of the Regional Roundtable executive committee that finalized the TSPLOST projects, declared himself now“adamantly opposed” to the tax plan. He said the allocation of $600 to MARTA for maintenance and operations violates state law.
Agreeing was state Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock), another non-voting Regional Roundtable executive committee member — and presumably a legislator with clout. He said the process should start over and has even contacted legal authorities about how to do that. Rogers had a recommendation for the Canton audience: Vote down the tax plan July 31.
That’s good advice from someone who knows.