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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Deal: T-SPLOST rejection 'slams the door on further expansion of our rail network any time soon'

Gov. Nathan Deal, in a statement "reiterating his commitment" to solving Georgia's transportation woes, announced that voters' rejection of the regional transportation tax means metro Atlanta's slowly decaying rail system will have to do for now. In addition, Deal said, he and other state lawmakers don't have "much of an appetite" for new rail until MARTA undergoes reform. We asked Deal's office what that exactly entails and will update when we hear word.

We should note that the state contributes zilch to MARTA's operations yet still places burdensome, unnecessary restrictions on the transit system's main source of funding, a 1-percent sales tax levied in Fulton and DeKalb counties.

Here's Deal's full statement:

“The voters of Georgia have spoken, and I will continue to do what I have done since I became governor: Work in consultation with state transportation leaders, legislators and local officials to establish our priority projects. There will be belt-tightening. It’s certainly disappointing that we won’t have the resources to accomplish all the projects needed to get Georgians moving quicker, but it does force state officials, including myself, to focus all our attention on our most pressing needs. For example, TSPLOST contained $600 million to rebuild the Ga. 400/I-285 interchange. We will face significant challenges in that corridor if that doesn’t get fixed, particularly after the tolls come down and volume increases. We’ll have a 'need to do’ Transportation Improvement Program list, but not a 'want to do’ list. In addition to tight state budgets, we’re also facing a significant reduction in federal funds so tough choices await.

“On public transportation, yesterday’s vote slams the door on further expansion of our rail network any time soon. Neither I nor the Legislature has much of an appetite for new investments until there are significant reforms in how MARTA operates.

“The referendum passed in three regions, and I think those regions will see great returns on their investment. Under the law, these regions will also receive a 90 percent match for local transportation projects, meaning they will only have to put up 10 percent from local funds. The law requires a 70-30 split in the regions that didn’t pass it.

“As governor, I aim to make Georgia the No. 1 place in the nation to do business and improving our transportation infrastructure is a major part of that effort. Yesterday’s vote wasn’t an end of the discussion; it’s a transition point. We have much to do, and I’ll work with state and local officials to direct our limited resources to the most important projects.”

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