by Thomas L. Weyandt
On July 31, metropolitan Atlanta voters have a tremendous opportunity to shape the future of our region for years to come through the Regional Transportation Referendum.
The 157 projects across our 10-county region are the result of months of unprecedented collaboration among 21 elected officials from rural and urban metropolitan Atlanta. These leaders whittled down a wish list that was in excess of $20 billion to emerge with $6.14 billion in critical regional rail and road infrastructure improvements. The final list reflects local communities’ concerns and hopes for moving our region forward.
Additionally, there is an extra billion dollars for vital local projects such as increasing bicycle lane, pedestrian crossings and improving sidewalks right here in Atlanta. The result is a set of well-planned projects reflecting the complexity of travel patterns in the region, including:
- Expanding of the city of Atlanta’s streetcar network, now under construction, which builds a foundation for new corridors in every direction;
- Funding of an additional $600 million for MARTA to return the transit system to a state of good repair and help ensure future federal support;
- Constructing rail service in the Clifton Corridor connecting MARTA to the Emory/CDC campuses;
- Sharing of more than $1 billion by all local governments for locally identified priorities.
Is the list perfect? Probably not. Will it change the region’s direction for the better? Absolutely.
Most important of all, it took more than five years working with the Georgia General Assembly to get to this point, and it is clear we won’t have the same opportunity to address the region’s transportation challenges any time soon despite the wishful thinking of some critics.
'Is the list perfect? Probably not. Will it change the region’s direction for the better? Absolutely.'
If approved by voters, the projects are forecast to lead to a decrease of travel delays by 24 percent and an increase in transit use of 39 percent. Air quality improvements are estimated to be the equivalent of removing 72,000 vehicles from the road each day. And residents will see dramatically improved access to major jobs centers and experience improved safety conditions on existing facilities.
In addition, the referendum will help address another problem: significant job losses. We lost 57,000 construction jobs in the last four years. These are hardworking women and men who used to be gainfully employed but now are unemployed or underemployed. The transportation and infrastructure projects related to the referendum are forecasted to generate 34,000 construction jobs and an $18 billion increase in personal income.
Specifically, city of Atlanta residents will see:
- The rejuvenation of three of the most deficient bridges in our system;
- The transformation of two major road corridors;
- Upgrades to 21 of our highest priority corridors;
- A new interchange for the Greenbriar area;
- The addition of bus rapid transit on a major city arterial;
- A $600+ million jump start for the Atlanta BeltLine with connection to the Atlanta Streetcar project;
- A new regional mobility call center for our elderly population.
The Regional Transportation Referendum represents a comprehensive approach to the enormous and wide-spread transportation challenges we share throughout our region. I encourage all voters to learn more about the referendum and then make their voices heard by voting on July 31.
Mr. Weyandt is senior transportation policy advisor to Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed.
For the opposing viewpoint, please click here.