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With gas at $4 a gallon, the Newton County Board of Commissioners should take swift action to bring what relief it can to county residents - namely by applying for an available federal grant that would provide funding for the beginning of a mass-transit system in the county.

While the 5311 Rural and Small Area Program will require some matching funding and despite there being no guarantee that the grant won't eventually dry up as so many other federal programs have, the board should still take action now.

There is already support for applying for the grant at the local level. While in the past, previous efforts in bringing mass transit to the county have failed, that was before $4 a gallon gas, which changes the entire equation. Commuters have already expressed their desire for public transportation by flocking to Rockdale County to park their cars in GRTA system parking lots.

Furthermore, having an adequate local public transportation system will be a big draw in attracting future positive growth to the county. The board has forecasted a population of 360,000 residents living in the county by 2050 and has taken steps to prepare for that growth by moving forward with plans for the Bear Creek Reservoir, new fire stations, new parks, etc...

But with the high cost of gasoline, newcomers are going to be less willing to move to the exurbs of Atlanta, including Newton County, if it's going to cost hundreds of dollars each month to drive to their jobs.

The board has already demonstrated its proactive spirit by taking part in the Stanton Springs Industrial Park and by wooing Georgia Perimeter College to the county. But the success of these two efforts could be jeopardized if future businesses and college students can't afford to drive to the eastern part of the county where they are located.