TSPLOST Turndown — So where to from here?
August 02, 2012 12:52 AM | 3016 views | 9 9 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
COBB RESIDENTS joined voters around metro Atlanta and most of the state on Tuesday to reject a proposed 1 percent, 10-year sales tax for transportation projects — and the vote wasn’t even close. The $8.5 billion measure failed by a 2-to-1 margin in the metro area and 68.8 percent to 31.1 percent in Cobb, despite an $8.6 million advertising blitz by supporters.

The defeat was not unexpected. Tax hikes are never easy to sell to the public, especially when the economy is bad. Making matters worse, this one was poorly conceived and poorly sold. It failed to deliver enough rail transit to those who wanted more of it (south DeKalb, for example); while at least initially pledging to deliver rail to an area where most people wanted nothing to do with it (Cobb). And what began as a traffic-relief program ultimately morphed into a “jobs” program, an Atlanta version of President Obama’s discredited “stimulus” program.

The anti-rail backlash here was quick in coming and led Commission Chairman Tim Lee to prevail on his fellow TSPLOST planners to alter their plan and substitute “premium bus service” for rail in the I-75 corridor. But the perception was widespread that rail was what was in the TSPLOST “oven,” regardless of what Cobb residents voted for. As former Commission Chairman Earl Smith (a TSPLOST opponent) put it last week, “It’s kind of like Obama’s health care,” Smith said. “(They) passed the legislation, and then (they)’ll decide what’s in it once you passed it.”

Lee was unable to get a majority of the county commission to support it, was unable to sell it to the public and eventually tried, without much success, to put some distance between himself and the measure. The TSPLOST no doubt cost him sufficient support at the polls in Tuesday’s GOP Primary that he now faces a grueling runoff race against former Chairman Bill Byrne, an outspoken TSPLOST opponent.

And many of the legislators who had voted for the bill that put the TSPLOST on the ballot wound up contorting themselves to explain why they were no longer in support of it, once it became obvious how unpopular it was with voters.

The bottom line? The TSPLOST was DOA — “Dead on Arrival” on Tuesday.

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SO WHERE do we go from here? The one thing everyone agrees on is that there is a pressing need for congestion relief. It’s also unlikely that the Legislature and governor will race to bring us “TSPLOST II: The Sequel.” Once bitten, twice shy, especially with a gubernatorial race looming in 2014.

That puts the onus back on local-level officials. And a locally conceived and oriented-road program should be easier to sell to voters than one that asks Cobb residents to share their sales tax dollars with counties clear across the metro area. It also would put elected Cobb leaders back in the driver’s seat on transportation improvements, rather than letting the mayor of Atlanta and faceless state DOT types take the wheel.

The good news is that significant improvements are already planned in the I-75 corridor, most notably the managed (reversible) lanes recently green-lighted by Gov. Nathan Deal.

But rather than rely on the state or the Atlanta Regional Commission to solve our road problems, Cobb’s next chairman and our legislators should combine with their counterparts in the neighboring counties that generate a disproportionate share of our traffic — namely Cherokee, Bartow and Paulding. Rather than being part of a metro-wide approach trying to address Atlanta’s congestion all at once, the more promising approach might be to create a northwest region consortium or commission — not to create a new layer of bureaucracy, but for the express purpose of focusing on relieving traffic congestion.

The other thing that all should agree on is that doing nothing is not an option, and that Tuesday’s TSPLOST turn-down should not be the final word on transportation improvements.
Comments
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TCW(TheCobbWay)
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August 02, 2012
Please change the leadership at the Cobb DOT before you start trying to come up with local solutions for our transportation issues.

That's where the absolutely disastrous Cobb County project list originated.

Get rid of DiMassimo and her yes men and we just might have a chance at finding a real solution.

They have the creativity of a pile of rocks.
Red Dawg
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August 03, 2012
How long has PSBJ been runnin DOT? 20 years? Talk about milking the county!!
TCW(TheCobbWay)
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August 04, 2012
Some small corrections.

It's was PBS&J, but now it is known as Atkins, a foreign (British) owned consulting firm whose local Atlanta offices aren't even located in Cobb County.

You are right they have had significant influence over the Cobb DOT over the years.

That's where Dan McDuff the Deputy Director of the Cobb DOT came from.

This whole squirming nest of advising consultants is so incestuous that if it isn't actually illegal, it is certainly not very advisable.

We need to clean house at Cobb DOT and start over.
Really? How Ironic!
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August 02, 2012
The irony is dripping here. You want Cherokee, Paulding, and Bartow to come together to help Cobb fix the congestion problems in Cobb because those counties contribute to the problem but have issues with Cobb coming together with Fulton and DeKalb to help those two counties fix the congestion problems that Cobb contributes heavily to? Good lord, you people OTP deserve the long commutes and decreasing property values you are going to get....
Neil0311
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August 02, 2012
Some of you are delusional and living in a fantasy world. Comments like "the northern metro counties will get what they absolutely deserve -- backwater status" are so far off it's not even funny.

Where do you think the business investment has been over the last 30 years? Where are transplants moving when they come to the Atlanta area? Not downtown. Not the City of Atlanta. They move to the northern suburbs.

What gets lost in all of this is that most of what was in this plan would NOT have solved the problem. Just passing taxes and agreeing to spend a bunch of money doesn't solve the problem. People also forget that it would have taken 10 years to complete, and may have exacerbated the problem in the short term as construction delays add to the problem.

Rather than a politically motivated heap of disconnected pork projects, we need targeted projects, recommended by disinterested parties like DOT engineers, which are funded by conventional means.

Did we need TSPLOST to build spaghetti junction in 1983-84? No. Did we need TSPLOST to extend GA400 in 1992? No. It's a gimmick.
Hwy Man
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August 03, 2012
You needed gas tax and a toll.
anonymous
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August 02, 2012
@Moliere, the northern metro counties will get what they absolutely deserve -- backwater status and little in terms of economic growth. To hold onto "white flight" feelings after almost 40 years is enough (MARTA was first put forth in 1965, and again in 1972).
@anonymous
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August 03, 2012
Did you ever think, (without being insulting), that there are an enormous amount of people who live in America who take joy in their everyday quiet lives and who enjoy a bucolic life?

The rejection of TSPLOST, for me, (breathing a sigh of relief), means that I will not see the megatons of concrete that I came to Cobb to escape.

What kind of person requires that everyone conform yto his/her sense of "economic growth". Why does it always have to be bigger and questionably better to keep some people happy.

Would you lay rail and plaster the earth with concrete before you are happy?

You need to get a new definition of progress. You need to understand that there are many concepts of what a good life is.

Progress, by people like you is defined as more money, but with less space and with the attendant crime and personality changes that come with urban living.

I f all people who felt like you would move into Atlanta proper, the city would be mush better off financially, the road issue would be of much less concern than it is now and those of nus who love our suburban county and its life style would co-exist peacefully with you.

There are much better yardsticks one can use to measure progress.
Moliere
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August 02, 2012
A local road program isn't going to solve regional traffic problems. That is the whole point. And do you really think that Cherokee, Bartow, Paulding and Cobb are going to come together to build what is really needed ... a major highway that will cost billions and require years of management and construction? If there were no previous attempts to do it before, why will it start now? Also, such a consortium will require changes to state law, which Deal has said that he will veto. Face it. You blew it. It's over.
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