Cobb County residents are telling the Atlanta Regional Transportation Roundtable how they feel about a package of road improvements to be funded by a regional penny sales tax referendum on the ballot next summer.
Marietta Patch editor Melissa Kory is at the meeting at the Board of Commissioners Meeting Room in the Cobb County government building, 100 Cherokee St.
5 p.m.: Cobb County residents have the next half-hour to view project maps, take a survey and talk with transportation staff. At 5:30 p.m., a question and answer session will begin.
5:10 p.m.: Approximately 120 people here so far including Cobb County Department of Transportation, Georgia Department of Transportation and Atlanta Regional Roundtable members.
5:22 p.m.: Tim Lee welcomes audience and announces that their is overflow seating downstairs.
5:24 p.m.: Civic League's Mattice Haynes explains that this is a time to answer citizen questions. Q&A about to start.
5:30 p.m.: Director of transportation Faye DiMassimo, transportation planning director Todd Long and John Orr of the Atlanta Regional Roundtable are on the panel.
5:33 p.m.: Long: Most transportation projects are funded through gas taxes in Georgia. However, people are driving more fuel efficient cars so the contribution to the federal gas tax is less. "We don't know exactly how to handle it," Long says. "The funding sources is getting flat, it's not growing with the growth of the economy and it scares most states because we are not going to be able to build capital projects for this country."
"The prospects in Georgia looks like this: the federal contribution over the next year or two is going to be 30% less than what we get now."
5:39 p.m.: DiMassimo: "One hundred percent of Cobb County will benefit from the transit directly or indirectly because it will help with congestion."
5:40 p.m.: Orr: "We've put a lot of effort into getting good costs for the rail lines around the region," Orr says. "We've looked at contingency costs of up to 30 percent for all the transit projects. There is a 30 percent contingency built into the cost."
5:42 p.m.: Question: Can the TSPLOST be approved by one region or does it have to be approved by them all?
5:43 p.m.: Long: "The short answer is yes," Long says. "Essentially every region is on their own. If this region votes yes it passes, and if they vote no it doesn't.
"When considering the votes for this, the boundary lines between the counties essentially means nothing. If Cobb voted yes and some where else voted no, it really doesn't matter. It's gets down to the overall vote."
5:46 p.m.: Question: Will you improve access to public transportation to make smooth trips to and from home and eliminate the need for a car?
Orr: "That's a very ambitious goal that I don't think we'll be able to reach," Orr says. "But this is a step toward that outcome."
5:47 p.m.: Question: How will this impact the Cobb job market?
DiMassimo: "Positive in terms of construction activity to be generated by the projects. In the long-term, it will support people wanting to build businesses here or expand the businesses that are here."
5:51 p.m.: Changing Cobb Parkway to a super arterial concept does not fit with the purpose and plans for business on the parkway. A super arterial concept is designed to move people through as fast as possible; however there is a lot of planned development along the parkway, DiMassimo says.
5:54 p.m.: Question: What will be the legal oversight to make all projects are completed?
Long: At the core of the program will be a citizens review panel. Each region in the state will have one. There is also an organization that will be required to do an annual audit.
5:56 p.m.: Question: Is there a penalty if you don't follow through?
"You have the penalty of the public not trusting you. You don't have an option of not building," Long says.
5:58 p.m.: Question: Could any TSPLOST project be cancelled years later?
Long: "The bill is actually solid on that," Long says. "You have to build the projects."
6:01 p.m.: Orr says, "The entire premise behind the regional transportation act is to identity a set of regional projects that will bring benefit to the region.
6:03 p.m.: The Roundtable is an established working group to evaluate various issues such as will any amount of bonding be required. No decisions have been made on what level of bonding would be required if any with the TSPLOST, Orr says.
6:07 p.m.: Question: How do the transit projects alleviate the congestion on 75?
Orr: "The issue of transportation congestion is related to a lot of factors. There is no silver bullet. It is going to take a mixture of various strategies for us to improve the situation. Some of the solutions are related to roadway improvements, some are related to better land uses and finally transit is part of the solution. It's part of the package we need to look at."
6:12 p.m.: Question: Are there plans to create off-highway bicycle and walking paths into the metro area?
Cobb has done an outstanding jobs of connecting the bicycle paths throughout the region, Orr says.
DiMassimo adds, there are maps on-line that outline our plans for further connectivity.
6:15 p.m.: Question: What are the specific benefits of the investment of $2.5 million in McCollum airport?
DiMassimo: "One of the things that are airport generates a little over $114 million of economic development," DiMassimo says. "The new air traffic control tower would meet the new standards that were put in effect after 9-11. The current tower is not suitable for the amount of traffic we currently have."
6:21 p.m.: Public comments start.
6:23 p.m.: Cobb county resident: "I agree the transit is a legitimate portion; however, I think we need to focus cost effectively in optimizing traffic congestion relief and the light-rail project is a poor project for that."
6:24 p.m.: Cobb county resident speaks in favor of the project. "I spend a ridiculous amount of time in my car, and it absolutely befuddles me that I have no transit options that connects me from my county to the rest of the region where I do business.
"If we fail to do this, if we don't fix our transportation, our jobs options will be absolutely dismal." Answered with applause.
6:27 p.m.: Another Cobb resident says the tax will contribute to "a better quality of life."
6:30 p.m.: Cherokee resident and employee of Life University stresses need of public transportation throughout region.
6:35 p.m.: Cobb resident and vice president of the Cobb Taxpayers Association says, "We do not see a direct association between cost and use."
6:36 p.m.: Cobb resident says, "It's terrific to be in a room full of adults calmly talking about transportation."
6:38 p.m.: Public comment section ended.