The State Road and Tollway Authority announced yesterday that the expressway's tollbooths are scheduled to be shut down on Nov. 21. If there happens to be inclement weather, the change-collecting kiosks will be removed on either Nov. 22 or 23.
"Starting with this meeting, we'll be getting out in the community, [to] Chambers of Commerce, and local neighborhood groups through now and November," SRTA Deputy Executive Director Chris Tomlinson said during a House transportation committee meeting on Thursday.
Tomlinson also added that demolition of the toll plaza would not take place until next year. SRTA estimates that it will cost $4.5 million. Meanwhile, the toll plaza's adjacent office building will remain intact and be turned over to the Georgia Department of Transportation.
This follows Gov. Nathan Deal's initial announcement before last year's T-SPLOST vote promising that tolls on Ga. 400 would be phased out by the end of 2013. The move reversed an extension of the 50-cent toll enacted by former Gov. Sonny Perdue.
Originally, the tolls were slated to be removed in 2011. In December 2010, however, the state issued an additional $40 million in bonds tied to the toll revenue.
When the governor announced the toll closures last summer, he also mentioned that the state needed to "work on long-term solutions" in the 400 corridor. A SRTA spokeswoman told WSB-TV that the transportation agency estimates an 18 percent increase in volume will follow the November toll removals.
In somewhat related news, MARTA recently asked for community feedback about its Georgia 400 corridor initiative. The transit agency is working with regional stakeholders including the Federal Transit Administration, Atlanta Regional Commission, and GDOT to look for alternative ways to reduce the expressway's congestion.
According to Beltline officials, the Edgewood Avenue Bridge is "currently the lowest structurally-rated bridge in use in the City of Atlanta." They say the design of the $4.5 million replacement bridge will provide greater pedestrian access and include the option of connecting transit service "via the extension of the Atlanta Streetcar network onto the Atlanta BeltLine corridor." No telling when that's scheduled to take place.
Detours for cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists are available after the jump.
City officials have closed the busy bridge at Howell Mill Road and 14th Street to investigate the cause of a "road sinkage." And there's no telling when they'll re-open the intersection.
If you take the route home or are planning to visit the area, city officials are advising motorists to use Northside Drive and 17th Street to avoid the scene. They've recommended people use the following detour options:
Option 1: [Southbound] on Howell Mill, turn left on 17th Street, right on Northside Drive, right on 14th Street, left on Howell Mill
Option 2: [Southbound] on Howell Mill, right on Huff Road, left on Marietta Boulevard, left on W Marietta Street, right on Howell Mill
[Northbound] on Howell Mill, right on 14th, left on Northside Drive, left on 17th Street, right on Howell Mill
Drivers attempting to turn right onto Howell Mill from 14th Street: Left on Howell Mill, left on 10th, left on Northside Drive, left on 17th and right on Howell Mill
Pedestrian traffic only allowed on west side of the street.
Huff Road is open to traffic. Access is allowed for local traffic only, businesses between Howell Mill and Huff Road.
The State Transportation Board on Thursday voted to pony up more than $1.7 million to an effort by Midtown and downtown boosters to overhaul several bridges along the downtown connector.
The projects are part of a joint initiative by Central Atlanta Progress and the Midtown Alliance to make the downtown connector, which carries more than 300,000 vehicles every day, more attractive. When it was first announced in August 2011, we - or more specifically, I - hoped that city leaders would consider making sure the project delights motorists and benefits the pedestrians and cyclists who use the spans.
GDOT's cash will pay for the makeover of two bridges which carry Peachtree Street over the massive interstate - one near the Amtrak station and the other near St. Luke's Episcopal Church. You'll notice that the face-lifts include some much-needed streetscape improvements. We don't see any bike lanes in those renderings, however.
The funding comes from a GDOT program that aims to build eye-catching entrances to the state. The city's bridges make the list because they're so visible to visitors, particularly those who come from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
If the overhauls are a success, says Dave Williams of the Atlanta Business Chronicle, GDOT would consider contributing more cash to fund the other bridges, which are along 10th Street, North Avenue, and Courtland Street.
We'll be most impressed if one of the concepts imagined by CAP and Midtown Alliance's planners and listed on p. 27 and 28 of the groups' report - a roundabout at Courtland Street, some kind of "perforated plaza deck" built on top of the interstate near St. Luke's Episcopal Church, and capping the interstate with a park at the Gold Dome - ever becomes a reality.
That picture and a few more renderings are after the jump.
No, it wasn't OKing a proposal to add "variable speed limit" signs on the eternally congested choke collar circling the city of Atlanta. The seven-member board yesterday morning unanimously approved a resolution supporting the state agency's new "Complete Streets" design policy.
The policy says transportation planners and engineers should not just design roads to accommodate cars but also pedestrians, bicyclists, or people hopping on a bus or streetcar. According to the agency's policy, planners should consider adding bike lanes, pedestrian facilities, and ways for people to better access transit when new roads are constructed or widened.
The move earned kudos from local cycling and pedestrian advocates, including a top official with the nonprofit that's trumpeting the Complete Streets message.
* The Transportation Leadership Coalition, one of the grassroots groups that called for voters to reject the measure, want state lawmakers to repeal the law which enabled the referendum. The legislation included a penalty clause for counties that rejected the T-SPLOST. In a press release:
The first penalty was threatened before the referendum was placed on the ballot. If local election officials did not place the referendum on the ballot, the community would suffer a 30 percent (30%) penalty in funding for local transportation projects. GDOT funding the county residents have already paid for in taxes.
Now that T-SPLOST is defeated, the second penalty kicks in. The law stipulates that if the referendum is voted it down, as it was in 9 of the 12 regions, those 9 regions now suffer a GDOT funding penalty. [...]
“We need strong leadership under the Gold Dome with the fortitude to repeal this terrible law and replace it with a plan that uses common sense,” said Jack Staver, chairman, Transportation Leadership Coalition. “This is certainly not any democratic principle that I believe in. Voting your conscience should not come with any penalty.”
It'd be interesting to know how elected officials and voters in the three regions that passed the tax feel about that.
* Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock, who voted for the T-SPLOST before becoming one of its biggest opponent before his July 31 primary challenge, has hinted that he's open to repealing the entire law. In addition, he's willing to push for legislation that would allow counties to partner and pay for transportation projects. Consider it "T-SPLOST lite." It's been proposed in years past under the Gold Dome, but lost out to the "regional" proposal.
* Downtown's revitalization has likely been slowed by the tax measure's failure, boosters say. Also, what's next for the Metro Chamber of Commerce, which orchestrated the ultimately unsuccessful, multi-million dollar campaign behind the tax? Maria Saporta says the T-SPLOST defeat has caused some to question the chamber's "ability to lead" in the region.
* Also, funny how we haven't heard much from former Gov. Sonny Perdue, who crafted the T-SPLOST — and just before leaving office, helped contribute to the measure's failure by extending the tolls on Georgia Hwy. 400.
Rather than dwell on why the referendum failed to pass, however, supporters including Mayor Kasim Reed and business leaders promised to continue trying to address the metro region's notorious gridlock and lack of mobility options.
"The democratic process worked," said Reed, who was greeted by loud applause in the downtown Marriott Marquis, where the business community held its election night party. "I respect the decision of the voters. But tomorrow I'm gonna wake up and work just as hard to change their minds."
Everything will be on the table, said the mayor, who appeared in good spirits despite seeing a ballot measure he invested so much energy into go down in flames. But he stressed that stakeholders need "a bigger table" — one with space for the myriad groups whom surely played a role in the referendum's defeat. In addition, elected officials and opponents need to boost the public's trust. (More than one person remarked to CL that the gulf between opponents and supporters hinted that "something deeper" than the $6.14 billion list of road and transit projects convinced voters to strike down the tax.)
"We have to get at the issue of why so many good, decent, honest women and men don't trust their government enough to take on a big problem," Reed said. "People need to remember tomorrow that government is the collective of us. And all we were trying to do was take on a problem that was too big for all of us individually to solve."
He added: "I ask, in a really respectful way, that we do sit down, and not wait six to eight to ten years, and we work on it right away."
Gov. Nathan Deal wasted no time rolling out his plan, one which he kept in his back pocket in case the T-SPLOST failed. Jim Galloway snagged the scoop:
The Plan B that staggered out of the governor’s office will be its polar opposite: Dramatically smaller, paid for with shrinking funds, and highly centralized. Projects will be hand-picked by a governor who intends to squeeze every penny available.
And no matter what others might say today, don’t look for a sequel to the TSPLOST referendum. A second vote has no place in the governor’s Plan B.
Instead, Chris Riley, the governor’s chief of staff, said traffic planners in regions across the state will be quickly asked to resubmit lists of road and rail proposals that require state and federal funding — figuring in an 8 percent decrease in federal funding. The governor has veto power over each list.
Riley said that Deal intends to use that authority to direct cash to absolutely essential projects in metro Atlanta and elsewhere. “The state’s top transportation priority is the Ga. 400 and I-285 interchange,” Riley said. But metro Atlanta residents could also find themselves enduring pot holes and worse for the sake of better roads around the Port of Savannah, he added.
That's just a snippet. Give Galloway's post a full read.
There's plenty of time to get wonklicious and speculate why the referendum failed, what should have happened, gaffes, and the like. Feel free to indulge if you'd like.
What should offer some comfort is that top elected officials, now that the T-SPLOST campaign is over, have made clear that they don't intend to spend a few years sitting on their hands about transportation. The question now deals with what kind of alternative solution or solutions we'll see — and if those help metro Atlanta become the kind of place we want. More election results and transportation coverage in... Jesus, a few hours.
Surrounded by such dignitaries as Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, U.S. Reps. John Lewis, D-Atlanta, and Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia, and other politicos, Reed thumbed his nose at recent polls showing the tax measure facing an uphill battle with voters.
"I don't know about you but I like politicians who are leaders," the mayor said. "Leaders don't read polls, they change polls... The people of Georgia tomorrow are going to make the decision to be in the future business. We're going to make the decision that treading water and just surviving is not enough. That's not who we are as a region and that's not who we are as Georgia. We didn't get to be the 10th largest state in the union and one of the fastest growing regions by being timid and playing scared."
Deal — who said that if people made all their judgments on polls, he wouldn't be standing in the Gold Dome today — noted that metro Atlantans mobility options would most likely not improve any time soon should voters reject the measure tomorrow.
"The traditional funding options have been unable to keep up with the growing need," he said. "Without this referendum, we simply don't have the resources to ensure that Georgia has an adequate transportation network in the years to come."
And waiting several years to restart the process of selecting projects wouldn't be wise, he said.
"I don't think the state of Georgia can afford the time to wait," Deal said. "The Charlottes and Houstons and other metro regions will be following this vote closely, if not closer, then us. That will be one more bullet in their belt to businesses who are thinking of expanding. 'Don't go to Atlanta. You won't get your employees to work in a timely fashion. You won't get raw materials in a timely fashion.'"
Members of the Transportation Leadership Coalition, a grassroots group fighting the tax, followed the well-attended pro-tax rally with its own, much-smaller press conference on the opposite side of the Gold Dome. Flanked by nearly 20 supporters, TLC Chairman Jack Staver blasted the tax as "another government stimulus program that won't help congestion" and "just another political scheme that leaves taxpayers holding the bag."
Fayette County Commissioner Steve Brown, one of the most vocal anti-tax elected officials, used his time at the podium to critique Reed, the measure's biggest advocate and who, in the last few weeks, has become the face of the T-SPLOST. He chided the mayor, whom Brown said "is not the king of the 10-county region," for pushing to include the Atlanta Beltline on the project list rather than fighting for rail into South DeKalb County. He also said Reed wants Atlanta to become Portland, which must subsidize its rail system and still has congestion.
"He's not making bold decisions," said Brown said, who urged more investment in roads. "He's making bad decisions."
A Reed spokesman disagreed with those claims.
"The mayor specifically had $225 million allocated to DeKalb for a bus line," he said, adding that that DeKalb County is also receiving $700 million for a MARTA line between Lindbergh Center and Emory University. "And he feels confident that after this passes he can get the additional funding for rail. The CEO of DeKalb County is in favor of this. Many elected leaders in DeKalb County are in favor of this."
After the jump, more photos from today's dueling press conferences
The environmental group and arguably the state's most active tea party movement have become unlikely allies and worked together in the last few months to defeat the measure. Today at the Gold Dome the two organizations' leaders stood side-by-side and unveiled their list of demands.
"Although the Sierra Club and the tea party will never agree on everything, we can find common ground," Colleen Kiernan, the eco-advocacy group's executive director.
Debbie Dooley of the Atlanta Tea Party Patriots said elected officials who warn they won't revisit the transportation funding issue if the measure fails on July 31 shouldn't act like "spoiled brats" and instead try again. Dooley says she's already heard from a few state lawmakers, including state Rep. Ed Setzler, R-Acworth, and state Sen. Renee Untermann, R-Buford, who promised to work quickly if voters reject the T-SPLOST.
Their demands, most of which would require state lawmakers' attention come January when the General Assembly convenes, include (thanks to Charlie at Peach Pundit for posting a digital version, as we only have a handout):
1) Discard the current three different taxes on motor fuel and enact a single motor fuel tax, based on the value of the commodity and allowed to rise and fall with price inflation, dedicated solely to funding transportation with a portion[a] of the motor fuel tax receipts available for “all transportation purposes,” including operating costs as well as capital and maintenance.
2) Allow any two or more local governments to create, and fully fund, transportation projects to meet the needs of their citizens through referenda on local motor fuel or sales taxes, and other revenue sources.
a) Allow referenda to levy local fractional sales taxes and motor fuel taxes of less than one percent for local transportation funding purposes.
b) Leave decisions over specific allowable allocations of local transportation taxes and fees in control of the local governments and their agencies that administer them, free from State interference.
c) Allow combinations of local governments to form fiscal partnerships with GA DOT for sharing capital and/or operating costs of local transportation projects to meet the needs of their citizens.
3) Before elected officials are given more money they need to show they can be trusted with what they have. As a first step toward transparency and accountability, DOT Board members should be elected at annual public meetings of Congressional District Legislative Caucuses in each Congressional District for open public election (no secret ballots) to one-year terms of service and review of transportation activities in the District.
4) Before MARTA is expanded, it should be brought up to date on maintenance and be restored to a reasonable level of service.
a) The Legislature should end its interference in MARTA budgets and resume an oversight role. Voters and elected officials where the MARTA tax is collected (Fulton, Dekalb and Atlanta) should decide how MARTA revenue should be spent.
b) The hotel/motel tax the City of Atlanta collects yearly should in some part go to MARTA or transportation needs, not to be used to build a new stadium for the Falcons.
c) Other options that should be considered include distance based user fares, charge for parking at MARTA lots, use part of the hotel/motel tax to help fund MARTA — even consider raising the tax to fund transportation needs.
Keep in mind that some of these proposals have been tried in the past under the Gold Dome and failed. Or that they could face political hurdles. Legislation similar to no. 2, for example, was proposed in the state Senate several years ago but failed by three votes in the session's final hours. Dedicating all the motor-fuel tax to transportation would likely mean cutting chunks from other parts of the budget, as some of its revenues fund public services. And whether Setzler and Untermann's support is enough to convince state lawmakers to revisit the divisive issue isn't certain.
Jim Galloway asked the duo an interesting question: If these are the items on which they agree, then what are their differences? Neill Herring, the Sierra Club's longtime lobbyist, said with a laugh that they "hadn't explored their differences yet." Dooley said people might be surprised to know that the tea party actually would be willing to support commuter rail in some instances, particularly if existing rail lines are used.
Dooley also said, as she told CL a few weeks ago, the tea party would consider supporting MARTA in its never-ending quest to lift state-imposed funding restrictions on the transit agency. (This is the part where we say the state contributes virtually nothing to MARTA's operations and maintenance.)
"The state has no skin in the game," she said today, calling it an issue of local control. "Why are they interfering?"
Worth mentioning: The two groups also have a friend in Ray Boyd, the Morgan County businessman and tea party member who bankrolled his own gubernatorial campaign — to the tune of $2 million — in 2010. Boyd told CL he's paid for yard signs and newspaper ads, among other campaign materials, to help the two organizations' defeat the T-SPLOST.
He declined to reveal how much he's contributed but did say the amount isn't "anything near" the sum that C.W. Matthews, a Cobb County-based road building company, donated to the business community's pro-tax, multi-million dollar campaign. Boyd did say, however, that he was on his way to the 'burbs later today to stick those anti-tax signs in front of commercial properties he owns.
And other people and companies you'd expect to support a tax that will lay more asphalt and transit lines.
You can peruse the list of contributors and expenditures by Citizens for Transportation Mobility, the business community's campaign to persuade voters to pass the 1-percent sales tax voters will decide on July 31. As well as a summary.
The group has raised $6.47 million so far and expects that amount to surpass $6.8 million. Among the names of contributors that stand out:
Georgia Power: $250,000
Yancey Brothers, a roadbuilding equipment company: $250,000
Georgia Highway Contractors Association, $250,000
C.W. Matthews, one of the state's most powerful roadbuilders: $200,000
National Association of Realtors: $185,000 (plus $31,000 in in-kind campaign data work)
Home Depot: $150,000
Vulcan Materials: $105,000
Jamestown, the developer behind Ponce City Market, which would be served by Atlanta Beltline transit if the referendum is approved: $100,000
Post Apartment Homes: $100,000
Newell Rubbermaid: $100,000
Wells Fargo: $50,000
PB Americas Inc.: $50,000
Troutman Sanders: $30,000
Waffle House: $25,000
Wolverton and Associates: $25,000
Stephens Rock and Dirt: $26,000
Selig Enterprises: $10,000
And that's just a sampling. Let us know who jumps out at ya.
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