While Atlanta may be too busy to hate, it is not too busy to wait. Plan A was the T-SPLOST rejected by the voters. Plan B is the status quo: congestion in the near-term. But I am hopeful there is a Plan C in our future.
With the resounding “no” to the regional transportation sales tax, the voters voiced a common opinion: Fixing congestion is priority one. They also made it clear the public has little trust in its government officials to spend new taxes as promised.
The divergent interests working against the T-SPLOST capitalized on these sentiments. Because their interests at times are diametrically opposed, it is unlikely they will be successful in building a consensus transportation plan.
Important in the debate, however, was where there was agreement: congestion is problem one; transportation is a driver of economic development, if done right and in the right place; fix transit governance and let those who want it support it; and land use and zoning laws need to be revisited to prevent creating more congestion as we grow.
From these general themes, Plan C has already begun to emerge.
As I previously wrote, Gov. Nathan Deal is in the transportation driver’s seat. Almost every major state public entity directing transportation planning and funding is either chaired by him or controlled by his appointees.
Fortunately, Gov. Deal’s interest and understanding of our transportation problems and solutions will serve the state and metro Atlanta region well. The governor also has a good working relationship with the Georgia DOT board and commissioner. Gov. Deal further understands the need to address the governance of the transit systems serving the metro Atlanta region.
Gov. Deal has said the state will prioritize projects based on needs, not wants. In other words, do not anticipate the state contributing or asking the voters for additional transportation tax dollars, including no gas tax increase as T-SPLOST opponents recommend. Combined, these points set the stage for how Plan C will be carried out.
Plan C will likely follow this roadmap:
First, major transportation road projects will be prioritized. Those producing the greatest regional congestion relief will be funded and built. The others will be returned to the shelf or given to local governments to fix.
Second, the state’s managed lane system plan will move forward. These tolled lanes will add priority capacity to the region’s limited access roads and facilitate the development of bus rapid transit to work centers.
Third, a regional transit governance model will be enacted.
Fourth, counties and cities will have to fix their congested major arterial roads and intersections that don’t make the state’s priority list.
Fifth, major transit projects can move forward, if — and this is a very big if — the counties and cities wanting them are able to retain more of the transportation funds they generate.
Sixth, the state will look closer at the impact of development on transportation systems.
We now know growth without commensurate improvements to our transportation systems equals congestion for all.
Notably, Plan C is a long-term plan. Without the infusion of additional transportation funds, there is no fast track. This is a within-existing-budgets, market-based approach.
Prioritize state road projects based upon greatest needs. Let in-town counties pay for transit with the transportation funds they generate. Let suburban counties pay for local road congestion relief with the transportation funds they generate. And along the way, make sure all projects are properly coordinated to ensure each is effective as planned.
Will Plan C come to fruition? Let’s wait and see.
Dunwoody resident Bob Dallas writes an occasional column for Reporter Newspapers and www.ReporterNewspapers.net called “Dallas On Transportation,” or “DOT.” Dallas headed the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety under former Gov. Sonny Perdue. He will answer questions about public policy on transportation and related needs. Direct questions to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.