The problem with the Transportation Investment Act, also known as the TSPLOST, is that it looks more like a sideshow con game than it does a focused transportation solution.
Admittedly, Cobb County has many valid transportation needs. But most of the projects that are currently on the project list are not what’s needed and are simply place holders for our money to be stashed until the various regional commissions decide how they’re going to spend it.
You see, the so-called TSPLOST is not a SPLOST at all. Its real designation is the special district transportation sales and use tax. It’s the product of an entirely different piece of legislation, HB-277, that does not include the protections inherent in the SPLOST law.
As a result, the project lists are much more fluid, and there is greater latitude regarding how the money is spent. There is nothing that guarantees that all the projects on the list will even be done.
If the flip-flopping and money shifting that occurred in developing the Cobb County project list is any indication, we’re in for a bumpy ride over the next 10 years.
Just a month or so ago, we were told that our county would perish under a burden of unmanageable traffic congestion if we didn’t spend $1 billion on a rail line from Midtown Atlanta to Cumberland Mall.
Even though 90 percent of the 12-mile long track would be in Fulton County, Cobb taxpayers would be stuck with the entire bill for construction, operating and maintenance. The inequity of that situation was so manifest that the project should have been dubbed, “The Fulton Railroad”.
But that fact seemed lost on our two Roundtable members until they realized that their constituents weren’t buying it. So now they’re offering us another project that’s darned near as inane as the Fulton Railroad: a system of “premium” buses with raised platform terminals that will whisk us from Acworth to Midtown in grand comfort. Buses that will provide us with the ability to “Read the MDJ,” as Kennesaw Mayor Mark Matthews put it, as we ride in comfort to the MARTA station in Atlanta.
Never mind the fact that currently there are four existing bus routes that do the same job. Are we prohibited from reading the MDJ on those routes?
The good news is that the “premium” bus system will cost us only $110 million. Sounds like a bargain until you realize that for that amount, each of the fewer than 2,000 people per day who currently use the existing four bus routes could get about 1,000 round trip taxicab rides directly to their Atlanta destination, as well as a free subscription to the MDJ in the bargain.
The bad news is that the Fulton Railroad is still in the plans; and since it will be only 60 percent funded, and will be built (according to the description in the project list) from the Midtown end, it will never make it to our county.
Cobb County may not receive any benefit from it at all, but we still will get to pay for it.
The billion or so dollars that will be taken from us, if we vote for the so-called TSPLOST, is not based upon what’s needed to solve our traffic congestion woes, but more simply, what some bureaucrat calculated would be the amount of revenue from a one percent sales tax over 10 years.
The current focus does not appear to be on what’s best for Cobb County, but simply on making sure all those tax dollars are spent. And it matters not that real solutions to our traffic problems have yet to be addressed.
The Transportation Investment Act should be opposed because it is based on a flawed state law and makes no sense for Cobb County.
It allows a tax to be administered by a quasi-governmental body, the Atlanta Regional Commission, that cares little about what Cobb County needs. It is a first step in eliminating “home rule,” and places the future of the county in the hands of a non-elected commission.
The Transportation Investment Act gets its strongest support, not from Cobb Citizens, but from the Community Improvement Districts and from the Chamber of Commerce. The underlying law allows individual counties to vote against the TSPLOST, but gives them no way to opt out if other counties approve it.
It gives us the illusion that we the taxpayers are in control, when, in fact, it is the special interests who are pulling the strings in favor of their own agenda.
With all the money that is involved and the project shifting that has occurred, the Transportation Investment Act looks more like a game of Three Card Monty, where the rube tries to find the non-existent “money card” that has been stuffed up the dealer’s sleeve.
In this case, the dealer is the Atlanta Regional Commission. Let’s hope that Cobb taxpayers don’t end up being the rube.