Cobb has to pass on federal road funding
by Geoff Folsom
September 06, 2012 12:56 AM | 5118 views | 12 12 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cobb DOT Director Faye DiMassimo <br> MDJ File Photo
Cobb DOT Director Faye DiMassimo
MDJ File Photo
MARIETTA – Cobb officials say the county will have to pass on one opportunity to obtain federal funding for road projects, but it hopes to have another chance for funding in the near future.

The U.S. Department of Transportation announced last month that it would release $473 million in unspent earmarks, making the money immediately available to states for projects that will create jobs and improve transportation.

Cobb Department of Transportation Director Faye DiMassimo said that will add up to about $11 million in Georgia. But she said the projects are expected to be “shovel ready,” as in ready to begin construction.

“At this point, we don’t see anything with that particular funding opportunity that is ready to go,” she said.

The future of transportation funding in Cobb, and elsewhere in the Atlanta area, has been in question since the TSPLOST 1 percent sales tax referendum failed on July 31 in a 10-county region. The 10-year tax would have funded nearly $1 billion in transportation projects in Cobb, with $689 million of that going toward an “enhanced premium transit” line connecting the Cumberland Mall area with Midtown Atlanta.

Cobb, in conjunction with its cities and the Cumberland Community Improvement District, has made an application with the Atlanta Regional Commission, as part of the agency’s “call for projects,” DiMassimo said. The list includes 28 projects totaling more than $33 million.

But city officials say the projects they’ve applied for are already funded or on the back-burner.

ARC plans to release a total of $87.5 million in federal funds for fiscal year 2014 transportation improvements in its 18-county region in October, spokesman Jim Jaquish said. Those numbers include a 20 percent match the municipality would be required to pay.

“We’re looking at all the submissions from all the local governments, and determining which projects will be on the list,” Jaquish said.

While funding is available for improvements that would help move freight, improve road safety and make transportation for bicycles and pedestrians easier, Jaquish said no money for transit would be available in this round of funding.

“We’ll work through that with transit providers in the future,” he said.

The highest priority project the city of Acworth submitted was upgrading five railroad crossings at a cost of $872,500. Mayor Tommy Allegood said the upgrades are part of an effort to make the crossings safer, so they can be converted to silent crossings.

But the upgrades, as well as the two other projects Acworth submitted to ARC with the county, are already paid for as part of Acworth’s 2011 SPLOST project list, Allegood said.

“They’ve already got the funding in place,” Allegood said. “This will ensure that our SPLOST dollars go further.”

Allegood said the money set aside for the SPLOST projects would then be reallocated to different transportation needs. He said specific transportation projects have yet to be identified.

Powder Springs community development director Pam Conner said the city is performing an update to some of its plans and may end up wanting to do the projects it submitted to ARC.

“They’re in the process of looking at the five-year update and trying to determine if this is something we really want to continue, or if it there something else that should go on the list and take those off,” Conner said.

The top project on Powder Springs’ list is $1.2 million in intersection improvements at Oglesby and Brownsville roads, along with a park-and-ride lot along Highway 278.

Powder Springs could end up giving money back or asking if it can reallocate the funds for other projects that are deemed more of a priority, should funding become available, Conner said.

“This was from past plans,” Conner said. “It may not be something that they may not feel is feasible or in the best interest of the city anymore.”

Other projects that Cobb County submitted as top priorities for federal funding from ARC include $844,000 for pedestrian and bicycle improvements on Powers Ferry Road in the Cumberland CID, a $487,520 bike route to student housing at Kennesaw State University and $558,774 for intersection improvements at Atlanta Street and South Marietta Parkway in Marietta.
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Be Careful
September 06, 2012
The folks who run Cobb DOT should be fired immediately. To say they had to pass on funds because NO projects are ready is one of the most absurd things I've ever heard.

I'm sure they could have come up with something.

Really, seriously, there's NOTHING ready to go if they had funds? Totally amazing.
Get Real
September 07, 2012
Be Careful, your ignorance is amazing. Read East Cobb Voter below for an educated response. You sound like Rene,just complain about anyone and everyone without looking into a mirrow.
Government Handout
September 06, 2012
Why are you all fussing over government bailout/handout? I thought we were the conservative Cobb County that does not need anything from the liberal Obama? Wow!!
EastCobb Voter
September 07, 2012
That's a good point. This money belongs to the taxpayers and should have been used to pay down the federal debt rather than showering the states with "walking around" money right before the election.
Local cases
September 06, 2012
Why are Cobb County residents blaming Obama for local problems? Isn't that what our Cobb County chairman and the other four commissioners have been elected to deal with?
September 06, 2012
Cobb Leadership is still traumatized by the TSPLOST loss!

September 06, 2012
It seems a little hard to believe that a county like Cobb doesn't have ANY projects that are ready to go and could be considered shovel ready and thus eligible for Federal funding.

This may be a stupid question, but couldn't Cobb apply the federal funds to current SPLOST projects that ARE shovel ready and on the verge of construction?

Then they could reallocate the savings realized to other lower priority projects that were a part of the original SPLOST list and had to be cut because there wasn't enough funding generated.

I think they were called Tier II projects.

Just wondering.
EastCobb Voter
September 06, 2012
Your question is not stupid. I am not an expert but I think that SPLOST funds must be 100% spent on the projects specifically approved by the voters. They can't be carried over or used for non-SPLOST projects. I don't think you can mix and match funds either but again I don't claim to be an expert here.

I would not blame Cobb County either. This was an election year stunt pulled by the DOT most likely with the Obama administration pulling the strings. The "shovel ready" projects must be identified by October 1st which is less than 30 days from now. The funding would need to be accepted by Dec. 31.

In this day and age where any kind of transportation project requires extensive environmental impact studies and reviews by the local DOT this guarantees that the money will not go to any new projects. Instead the money will end up in already approved projects that may have run out of money, like perhaps the Atlanta belt line. Even that might be out of reach as it all depends on what the definition of shovel ready is.

I highly suspect this is all an attempt to put a few laid off construction workers on the job right around the election. That might goose the unemployment statistics until the money runs out in 2013. This is what you get when you have too many layers of government all working at cross purposes.

Don't blame Faye DiMassimo or Cobb DOT for this latest fiasco. They are working within the constraints of a highly dysfunctional system, featuring multiple layers of rules with contradictory purposes, all of it overseen by political hacks and cronies. Good luck getting anything resembling a functional government.
September 06, 2012
The Tier II SPLOST projects are, in fact, on the approved list for Cobb County.

Whether they are "shovel ready" or not is another issue.

I guess what I was suggesting is that any SPLOST projects that are ready to go could be funded with federal dollars.

That would free up the Cobb generated SPLOST dollars for other voter approved SPLOST projects (Tier II).

You are correct. The system is dysfunctional, but I would suggest that DiMassimo and her DOT department are also dysfunctional.

The value that someone like DiMassimo should bring to the table for Cobb County is a way to get things accomplished regardless of the dysfunctional nature of the system.

She obviously does not know how to do that. So when money shows up unexpectedly she and Cobb County are caught flat footed with no where to turn.

Instead of wasting money on useless Alternative Analysis studies for a light rail system that will never be reailized in our lifetime, she could have used that money and staff time to prepare plans for realistic projects and had them ready to go.

If she had then Cobb would have been prepared for this federal windfall.

As it is, we are screwed.

September 06, 2012
I find it odd that there aren't ANY shovel ready road projects in Cobb. Somebody must be sleeping on the job or playing politics with the prosperity of the county.....hmmm
mk-go away faye
September 06, 2012
What a bunch of DOPES!

There is NOTHING ready that needs funding??

Traffic in Cobb is at a CRAWL!!

I bet 11 million could have redesigned and fixed the really stupid exit ramp from 295 onto Cobb Parkway.

It is IMPOSSIBLE to get into the left turn lanes to Spring Road towards Smyrna!

This ramp was haphazardly built when Cumberland Mall was built- I believe in 1078. It's been ignored by the DOT.

Its the worst traffic tangle around the Galleria/Cumberland mall area.

At this moment,.. the only work you see being done there, is more stamped concrete by the CID, in the existing median. they aren't addressing the traffic WHATSOEVER!!

It's a joke really- makes Cobb welcome matt look like a bunch o hillbillies here- that about sums it up!!
EastCobb Voter
September 06, 2012
This is a great example of how hopelessly dysfunctional our government has become. This was all an election year ploy by Obama to make it look like he is doing something about the recession.

Of course the money will end up going to the most wasteful projects in the country, probably high speed rail "studies" or bridges to nowhere.
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