The group of five mayors and county commissioners in the Atlanta region were able to put personal preference aside and finalize a $6.14 billion transportation project wish list on Aug. 15. Several tough cuts—adding up to $420 million—had to be made prior to the deadline, but the compromise marked the first time Atlanta regional leaders have divided up a major transportation-funding plan for the area.
The list can be tweaked before a final version must be submitted on Oct. 15, and the public will get a chance to weigh in. If everything goes according to plan, voters will then get to decide on a referendum that calls for a 1% sales tax increase to pay for the projects. The 10-year tax would raise over $7 billion, with the remaining dollars being dispersed to counties and cities on other transportation projects.
“This is a victory for the region,” Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said. “I think what turned the tide is not quitting and not being overcome by frustration or anger. There were a couple of moments where the conversation and the work could have gone either way. And I think all of the members did a good job of walking that back.”
Reed wanted to make sure the meeting started off on the right foot, and agreed to cut $10 million from Atlanta’s allocation for the Beltline transit loop. A $47 million project that would have built an interchange at I-20 and I-285 also was eliminated from the list. Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal made perhaps the biggest sacrifice. The state’s leader surrendered $80 million that would go toward Georgia Regional Transportation Authority Xpress bus service.