Officials meet deadline to pass Atlanta region’s first major transportation funding plan

Tough cuts made on both transit and road construction side, but leaders relieved process is moving forward

August 16, 2011

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.