Atlanta to unveil local transportation projects

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New pedestrian crossings, bike lanes and other amenities geared towards muscle-powered transportation could sprout up around Atlanta if a 1 percent sales tax passes on July 31.
Atlanta could reap an estimated $94 million in discretionary funding over the next decade for local transportation projects if voters approve. 
On the city’s wish list: improving bike and pedestrian safety around Chastain and Grant parks, building a multi-use path near the Silver Comet Trail and creating bike lanes along portions of Howell Mill Road.
The projects could touch thousands of residents as well as hundreds of thousands of commuters who flow into the city. The city is scheduled to release details of its local projects from 6-8 p.m. Tuesday in an open house at City Hall, 55 Trinity Ave.
Across the 10-county metropolitan Atlanta region, local projects — over which local jurisdictions have control — would be funded by 15 percent or roughly $1 billion of the estimated $7.2 billion to be raised over a decade if voters give their okay.
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Larger, regional projects have already been codified by a regional roundtable. They would be funded by 85 percent of the T-SPLOST cash, or roughly $6.14 billion over ten years, if the referendum passes.
Atlanta and Cobb County — which could get just shy of $140 million over 10 years for local transportation projects — are among the jurisdictions that have assembled detailed wish lists for discretionary projects. That is not required by the state law that authorized the July 31 vote on the special purpose local option sales tax, or T-SPLOST.
Tom Weyandt, transportation policy advisor to Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, said Atlanta wanted to get its plans out in the open as soon as possible.
“Our feeling was it was appropriate to do it to make sure the public knew what it was going to get,” he said.”
For the Mt. Paran-Northside Citizens Association, upgrades to Mount Paran Road near I-75 are a high priority, said John Gordon, the group’s president. Atlanta plans to build a right-turn lane from Mount Paran northbound to Northside Parkway.
“It’s a difficult configuration,” Gordon said. “You have to cross too many lanes and it is a real bottleneck at morning rush hour in particular. It also causes all sorts of traffic to converge. You’ve got businesspeople driving to work, moms driving kids to school, kids driving themselves to school. And there are a lot of bicyclists.”
Even as it attracts committed friends, the T-SPLOST has gathered foes who have attacked the proposed tax from several angles. Some critics say the list is weighted to heavily towards roads at the expense of transit. Others say there is not enough accountability built into the plans, and that the decade-long tax won’t complete all the touted projects.
To get input about local construction projects, Atlanta officials conducted a series of public meetings, received comments through a special email address and met with City Council members.
“There’s no shortage of projects, no shortage of plans,” Weyandt said. “The issue is, we now have so many plans, we now have to implement them. Every quadrant of the city has unmet needs.”
Atlanta’s plans are broken into three categories.
– “High priority” — About $20 million over five years, or 45 percent of Atlanta’s discretionary revenue from the T-SPLOST, would be directed towards “high priority” projects along major corridors. Those projects could cost between $1 million and $3 million apiece. Among the listed items: sidewalks along Bolton Road between Marietta Boulevard and Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway and filled-in sidewalk gaps near Sutton Middle School in Buckhead. Improvements for bicycle and pedestrian traffic around Grant Park are also included, including “traffic calming” — rumble strips, speed humps or other devices — on Cherokee Avenue.
– “Liveable Centers Initiatives” — Atlanta wants to direct about $9 million over five years towards projects already adopted in Liveable Centers Initiatives Studies, which encourage high-density developments amenable to walking and biking. The city is seeking federal money in matching grants, although there is no guarantee the city would win the competitions. LCI-related projects include repaving work and new bike lanes along Joseph E. Boone Boulevard and Joseph E. Lowery Boulevard, as well as new paths leading to the West Lake MARTA station and a mid-block pedestrian crossing on Moreland Avenue near Vortex Bar & Grill in Little Five Points.
– “Neighborhood projects” — The smallest projects could cost $16 million or up to 35 percent of the city’s discretionary funding from the T-SPLOST over the next five years. Each of Atlanta’s 12 City Council districts would receive about $262,500 for left-turn lanes, street resurfacing, sidewalks, street lighting and bus benches and other items.
Plans for an additional $49 million in local spending — outside the five-year window — have not yet been detailed.
According to city planners, more than 90 percent of the city’s residents would live within a half mile — or generally, a ten-minute walk — from a project to be funded by the T-SPLOST.
DUI Schools Atlanta Blogger’s Note:  So, will all of this help, or is growth, once it resumes, so fast that all gains will be erased?  Aren’t we taxed enough already?  Many folks would say to cut the spending before asking us for more money.  I, certainly, would like to have some type of safeguards in place to make sure this new tax money collected would be spent wisely and not wasted.
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