North Fulton mayors vote to trade MARTA funds for roads

This morning I noticed an article on NorthFulton.com which reports the mayors of North Fulton county have voted to sacrifice extending MARTA into their communities in exchange for more road money:

The North Fulton Municipal Association decided to try to trade $37 million in MARTA engineering funds for the restoration of road projects to be funded by the 2012 transportation-improvement sales tax.

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He said Fulton is a net donor to the tax while Cobb County and DeKalb County get a 120 percent return on their investment.

Bodker then criticized the Beltline streetcar project in Atlanta. He said it is an Atlanta project, not a regional one, but it is slated to receive $600 million in funds intended for regional transportation development. He said Atlanta is getting more than its fair share of the revenues and this money is being taken from North Fulton’s hide.

“If Atlanta wants to fund it, they have 15 percent off the top of this thing,” he said.

He said Atlanta would be paying for the project using other people’s money.

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Sandy Springs Mayor Eva Galambos suggested heavy rail would never come to North Fulton, so the $37 million was money wasted.

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The representatives of Alpharetta, Milton and Johns Creek voted in favor; Wood, representing Roswell, voted against it. No representative from Mountain Park was present.

While the shift of $37 million of a $8 Billion dollar tax is a small gesture it does show that the mayors of North Fulton are finally yielding to the political realities in their communities. The strange thing is that just one week earlier the same newspaper published a story from the same reporter which lead readers to believe the mayors unanimously suppported the MARTA funds: 

Bodker said all the mayors support transit, but are concerned there is no regional transit system that all participating governments support. As far as the projects are concerned, the mayors support extending MARTA to Holcomb Bridge Road and eventually Windward Parkway. At the very least, the tax should pay for the necessary engineering, which would cost $37 million. The mayors also unanimously supported completing the proposed Clifton Corridor that would connect MARTA to Emory University, Atlanta’s largest employer, and extending MARTA up I-75 to at least Cumberland Mall.

A complete reversal of the North Fulton Municipal Association’s position in one week? How curious.

Transportation follies continue

The third act of Georgia’s transportation tax follies began this week as the planning director of the Department of Transportation, Todd Long, announced his list of projects which could be funded with the tax increase. If passed by voters, Metro Atlanta taxpayers will be expected to pay an additional 8 Billion Dollars over the next ten years. With this week’s release of potential projects the state has winnowed the list down to a mere $23 Billlion. But since 23 Billion is nearly 300% of what can be expected from taxpayers the rest of the cuts will have to come from that master of efficiency known as a government committee.

The AJC has an article about this most recent revision of the transportation project list and you can read the whole thing here. Below are a few of the highlights:

A group of 21 local elected officials must take those $22.9 billion worth of projects and jettison about $15 billion of them, because the penny tax would raise only about $8 billion over its 10 years

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For  the moment, this is it: $14 billion worth of transit projects, $8.6  billion worth of road projects, $205 million in sidewalk and bicycle  projects, and $28 million for aviation.

Long emphasized that the  $14 billion price tag for all the transit was just a reflection of the  high cost of new transit capital projects, not his opinion on how much  the region should spend on such projects.

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Bodker (Johns Creek mayor) is ambivalent about the idea of Ga. 400 transit. While he favors transit, he said it has to be the right project, a sustainable one, so he’d like to see it studied first.  MARTA staff did not put the project on the agency’s list because of the difficulty and expense of crossing the Chattahoochee River to get to the next jobs center, staff members told their board.

But other officials in north Fulton favored putting the $839 million line on the list, Long said.

So the director of planning added an $839 million MARTA train extension to Roswell because “other officials in North Fulton” favored it. I can’t imagine who those other officials  might be.

The MARTA train is projected to cost 10% of all the money collected from every taxpayer in the metro Atlanta area over ten years and wasn’t even requested by the people of Roswell. That is the kind of decision making which will doom this entire transportation tax boondoggle.

I am starting to believe that the tax increase is doomed. And while I never thought the tax increase was a good idea, it is sad that the state will have wasted two years by the time voters make it official.

Johns Creek Mayor and Councilmen want MARTA trains… in Alpharetta

There is a very interesting article in the Johns Creek Herald. Apparently on April 11 the Johns Creek City Council discussed the issue of how little money MARTA spends in North Fulton County. They also talked about the fact that if Johns Creek residents will be expected to pay an additional transportation tax then MARTA should provide their residents nearby access to trains.

The catch is that they don’t want the MARTA trains to come into the city of Johns Creek. They just want the trains to be extended into my neighborhood of Windward in Alpharetta.

As Mayor Bodker says:

Bodker said the North Fulton cities need to look at their land-use policies to see whether they even want transit, and if they do, how they would support it. He said Johns Creek does not lend itself to trains, however, buses could connect the city to train lines extending northward via the 400 Corridor or Gwinnett County.

“These are all long-term plans that won’t happen overnight,” he said.

However, plans need to be made and land-use policies changed in the meantime. He said even those who do not use transit benefit from it, because taking cars off the road makes it easier for those who continue driving. He also said continued development is unsustainable if people continue relying on cars.

So the man who didn’t honor his word when it came to charging Alpharetta residents higher recreation fees would like us to change the complexion of our city for the good of his constituents? Right. We’ll get right on that.

And Mayor Bodker wasn’t the only one suggesting Alpharetta should change for the sake of its North Fulton neighbors.  Johns Creek City Councilman Randall Johnson said:

…something he would like to see happen is for the train line to extend all the way to Windward Parkway.

“I think you would see more people from North Fulton utilize it,” he said.

This doesn’t surprise me. I have watched as politicians and developers from Johns Creek lobbied for the urbanization of Alpharetta. And I have watched as Alpharetta City Council has acquiesced every time.

I can see how Johns Creek, Milton, Forsyth County, Cherokee County and every other person outside of Alpharetta might enjoy the convenience of having trains in someone else’s backyard. It is much less obvious how the destruction of our quality of life benefits me and my family. I will have more on this subject… a lot more… but for now I am so furious I can’t see straight.

You can read the whole article here.

I hope you all enjoy a wonderful Good Friday and Easter weekend.