In 2010, the Georgia Legislature gave the Atlanta region an opportunity to take a major step toward fixing our transportation problems.
Did we lose that opportunity on July 31, 2012?
No. On July 31 the region wisely voted down a plan to permanently obstruct the region from ever being able to fix its transportation problems.
The opportunity of the TSPLOST was destroyed on Oct. 15, 2011. That is when 21 politicians in a room ignored our real transportation needs and instead horse-traded special-interest projects that would not improve traffic flow on our roads.
Not only did the TSPLOST projects list squander billions on special interest projects that would not improve traffic flow, it also would have obligated future transportation dollars to projects that would not help to improve our traffic problems in the future. So the projects list would literally have financially obstructed the region from ever being able to solve our transportation problems.
The special interests continue to try to keep their special interest projects in play by claiming that voters decided against investing in transportation infrastructure. They can claim that all they want, but it just ain’t so.
Voters would have been willing to invest in a projects list that would have actually helped to fix our traffic problems. Voters voted against having billions of their tax dollars hijacked by special interests. Voters voted to find a “Plan B” that really would help to fix our traffic problems.
The Georgia Public Policy Foundation has produced a phenomenal “Plan B.” Plan B was put together by real transportation professionals. Their objective was to focus on those projects that would do the most to improve our traffic problems, and focus on the most cost-effective projects.
Plan B is a statewide plan. It proposes a less expensive package that can be done by reallocating existing tax dollars, rather than raising new taxes. Their plan is so phenomenal that I think voters would be willing to pay some additional taxes to expand this package, but right now, that is not what they have proposed.
Plan B is not anti-transit. The TSPLOST would have spent billions on ultra-expensive projects designed to gamble that it would result in economic development. But as TSPLOST proponents admitted, you do not invest in light rail for the purpose of moving people, and light rail would not result in serving large numbers of commuters for longer distance trips.
By contrast, Plan B focuses on transit that is designed for the purpose of moving large numbers of people from where they live to where they need to go. And by providing the most cost-effective transit, they can provide an entire regional transit network at a tiny fraction of the cost of two ultra-expensive transit boondoggles.
The TSPLOST would have spent well over a billion dollars to partially build two ultra-expensive transit boondoggles. Plan B can provide better transit service, serving far more people, for half the cost of the two boondoggles. Plan B provides a realistic affordable regional transit network providing efficient service throughout the region.
And transit only consumes about 10 percent of Plan B dollars vs more than half of the TSPLOST boondoggles list.
The vast majority of Plan B dollars go toward cost-effectively fixing worst bottlenecks on our roads and providing new capacity where it is needed to meet our current and future needs. A growing population will result in more cars on the road.
Plan B includes new toll roads, such as the recently approved I-75/575 project. This project will dramatically improve traffic flow on I-75 and I-575 in Cobb County for everybody in all lanes. The existing lanes will not be modified during the construction of this parallel road, and the existing lanes will continue to not have a toll.
One exciting component of Plan B is their use of cost-effective technology to get our existing infrastructure to perform better.
There is another very exciting component. Many people have been asking for a bypass to divert some truck traffic around Atlanta.
Plan B contains a bypass that would reduce truck traffic in the Atlanta region by 20 to 40 percent.
Plan B is a true comprehensive transportation plan. I believe that Plan B is a plan in which taxpayers would be willing to invest.
Ron Sifen is president of the Cobb County Civic Coalition.