By Yvonne Williams
President and CEO, Perimeter Community Improvement Districts
Early in the prior decade, when I still was learning the ropes of leading the then Central Perimeter Community Improvement District, I joined numerous other civic, regional and community leaders and developers on a LINK mission trip to Chicago, to learn particularly about the Windy City’s varied modes of transportation options for commuters there.
Along with colleagues from the Cobb/Galleria Community Improvement District, we returned inspired by the possibilities for our region, and particularly for reviving the topside of our over-loaded I-285 and what would later become known as “Revive 285.”
The Perimeter CIDs initiated the partnership to fund studies and an analysis of several modes of transit options to improve congestion and reduce the use of single occupancy vehicles on the Perimeter topside. This in effect began the construction of a series of bridges of collaboration, spanning from Doraville (and the future site of the proposed Assembly project), north and west to the Cobb Galleria, (and soon the new home of our Atlanta Braves @ SunTrust Park.) Those collaborations remain ongoing today.
We considered light rail transit tying in to MARTA, bus rapid transit in dedicated lanes, as well as bus rapid transit in barrier-separated HOV lanes. And now roughly 15 years later, those dreams for moving thousands of commuters around the top end appear to be on the verge of reality.
Thanks to the leadership of Gov. Nathan Deal, the Georgia General Assembly and Georgia Department of Transportation, the state now has an excise fuel tax funding mechanism in place to generate dedicated funding for major transportation infrastructure maintenance and improvements. And again, due to innovative leadership from the State Roads and Tollway Authority (SRTA), Georgia Regional Transportation Authority (GRTA), the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) and others, GDOT has developed a new model of construction and financing for massive transportation improvement projects.
Along with North Perimeter Contractors, and consortium partners Ferrovial Agroman, U.S. Corporation and the engineering team of The Louis-Berger Group, Inc. and Neel-Shaffer, a design/build/finance model is being deployed which should save Georgia taxpayers, the state and commuters several hundred million dollars over the life and completion of the coming re-construction of the I-285 at Ga. 400 interchange.
What was once envisioned as a $1.1 billion expenditure is now forecast at just under $800 million for the new interchange and overpasses, as well as for miles of additional new collector and distributor lane capacity, running from New Peachtree and Chamblee-Dunwoody Roads on I-285 north to Roswell Road, and from the Glenridge Connector north to Spalding Drive along Ga. 400.
And on top of these significant capacity enhancements, Gov. Deal recently announced the investment of another $10 billion over 10 years to Georgia’s major transportation corridors, including dedicated express lanes to include transit on the top end of I-285. From resolutions following an insightful economic development trip to the formation of reality.
As Gov. Deal himself noted of these partnerships last fall, “Thanks to strong collaboration at the federal, state and local levels, the infrastructure improvements included in this project will keep Georgians moving, support our growing economy, and increase the quality of life in our region and state for decades to come.”
The leadership and investors in our DeKalb and Fulton Perimeter Community Improvement Districts (PCIDs) annually invest millions in voluntary additional property taxes. Their leadership and commitment has made our Central Perimeter sub-market into the Fortune 1000 address of choice in the Southeast, and increasingly one of the nation’s fastest growing live, work and play communities.
Our 4.2 square miles span and cross two counties and the three municipalities of Brookhaven, Dunwoody and Sandy Springs. The forward-thinking leaders of those cities are among the voices of leadership calling for the expansion of transit corridors, increased investments in transportation infrastructure and the development of additional green spaces, PATH trails and alternative forms of connectivity between these cities as well as to our neighbors in Chamblee, Doraville and Buckhead.
As tax and publicly financed resources remain limited, our investors are also willing to put their money where their mouths are, investing $10 million toward the first hard construction costs on the new I- 285/Ga. 400 interchange.
We have been busy − yesterday, today and will be tomorrow, building bridges, literally and figuratively, to better connect and position all of our adjoining communities on the path to better tomorrows. And through continued partnership, we will get there.