Majority of BoC against SPLOST funds for BRT
by Hilary Butschek
June 08, 2014 04:00 AM | 4671 views | 6 6 comments | 44 44 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA — A majority of the Cobb Board of Commissioners say they are opposed to using sales tax dollars to pay for a proposed bus-rapid transit system connecting Kennesaw with Midtown Atlanta.

Commissioners Bob Ott, Lisa Cupid and Helen Goreham say they do not support county Chairman Tim Lee’s proposal to use special purpose local option sales tax dollars to partially fund the transit system.

Lee has said $100 million of the $494 million cost of the bus-rapid transit system could be paid for out of a new special purpose local option sales tax, were voters to renew the tax in a November referendum.

The transit system has not yet been approved for construction by the Board of Commissioners. County spokesman Robert Quigley said commissioners will vote sometime in July on whether to include an earmark for the BRT in the proposed SPLOST list.

Ott, who represents southeast Cobb, said he does not favor including the BRT on the SPLOST list because he does not approve of the transit system.

“What I’ve seen so far I can’t support, because I don’t think it solves the traffic problems, and I think it’s a huge sum of money,” Ott said. “I believe it’s more geared toward economic development than solving the traffic problems.”

Cupid also cited the large cost as the reason for her opposition.

“As of right now, I am not supportive of including BRT on the SPLOST project list due to its exorbitant cost and limited reach to persons who depend on transit,” Cupid said.

Goreham, who represents northwest Cobb and is considered Lee’s ally on the board, said she is also against using SPLOST money to fund the transit project.

“It would probably be very detrimental to the SPLOST,” Goreham said. “I think there is still a high level of negativity from the T-SPLOST, and I think it would carry over for this proposal. But also, there needs to be an explanation of the total financing for the BRT proposal,” Goreham said.

That explanation will come from the final version of an environmental assessment the county expects to have later this month, Goreham said.

The details of the transit system funding will determine the total proposed cost of the project and the amount the county will have to pay, Lee said. The last assessment showed the county would contribute $100 million and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration would contribute $242 million.

The FTA requires two studies on the project to contribute funding, and the county has paid for them, Quigley said.

The commission has already spent $1.8 million on an analysis by Croy Engineering. The county also spent $2.3 million to get an assessment by Kimley-Horn and Associates that was meant to evaluate how the system might affect the environment, Quigley said.

The county expects the FTA to look at the environmental assessment and decide how much funding it will contribute to the project. The FTA is expected to make their decision this month.

Two others on the Board of Commissioners said they did not want to weigh in on the SPLOST funding for the bus system until they know exactly what the federal government intends to pay for.

Lee said he wants to wait until the final reports from the environmental assessment come in before he makes a decision. He said the report will give a more detailed explanation about the total costs for parts of the project, such as vehicle types.

Until he has all of the information, Lee said, he doesn’t want to decide whether to ask taxpayers to contribute to the project.

Commissioner JoAnn Birrell, who won her primary campaign last month and faces no competition in the general election, said she wants to see a list of the other projects that might be included in SPLOST list before she decides whether to include funding for the transit system. But she previously told the MDJ she would not be against including it in the SPLOST.

“I have no problem with it going on the SPLOST list because, as you know, that will be voted on by the public,” Birrell said in April.

Yet on Wednesday, Birrell said: “I am still undecided until I see the full SPLOST list and figures.”

Comments
(6)
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Cumberland Guy
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June 16, 2014
The solution seems to be the pink elephant in the room: extend MARTA into Cobb County - finally !

A rapid train system (yes- for many millions, because it's getting more expensive by the day, but even more expensive NOT to have one in Greater Atlanta!) is the solution and it's quite simple for even the Cumberland area, where train tracks exist just West of the mall - but no the vision of Cobb County commission seems to be (as so often) beholden to the interests of the'good old boys' network, that makes money finding solution for their own, but not for the tax payer and citizens of Cobb (and Greater Atlanta!) - shame on the commission not to engage in the necessary expansion of MARTA!
HotinAtlanta
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June 09, 2014
Boy, they had better vote against this! The tax payers of CC are already pissed off about having no choice in paying for the stupid stadium Tim Lee got. We need to get him out of office before he spends any more of our tax money on this pet project of his. Besides, we already have a bus systems Lee - it's called CCT. We don't need another system! Quit spending my money to line your pockets!!
Greg D
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June 08, 2014
Perhaps it would be better to spend money on bringing the jobs to Cobb County, thus eliminating the need to commute to downtown Atlanta for a high % of residents.
west Cobbite
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June 08, 2014
Before committing to hundreds of millions of dollars, how about the powers-that-be craft a small sample project to determine if such a system would be successful? Work with the current Cobb bus system to provide routes from at least two spots in Kennesaw (the mall and KSU come to mind) and have that route go directly to two spots in Atlanta AND provide the drivers with the same equipment used by ambulances that control the traffic lights. That should allow the buses to get through much more quickly and provide information concerning the need for a more formal and much more expensive BRT system.
TRANSPORTATION tax
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June 08, 2014
Is this a joke? The commissioners of Cobb County Georgia oppose a transportation tax because it actually includes transporation? Is it that we should spend public "transportation" dollars exclusively to make impermeable surfaces over which taxpayers can drive their privately funded motorized vehicles at great personal expense? There should be a law that prevent spending public transportation dollars on any project that requires a personal motor vehicle!
crtic
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June 08, 2014
it looks like Faye's bus to nowhere may be getting off track.
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