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Growth plans for next 30 years aired at Rockdale forum
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Local residents got a look at a draft development plan for the metro Atlanta region called Plan 2040 on Tuesday evening at the JP Carr Center hosted by the Atlanta Regional Commission.

Plan 2040, created and organized by the ARC, is metro Atlanta’s plan to accommodate economic and population growth sustainably over the next 30 years. The ARC is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that’s spent the last year and a half conducting neighborhood forums and forecast researching. The forums are being held in 18 counties to identify concerns and develop recommendations to share with elected officials.

Presenting their research, ARC’s John Orr discussed some of the changes projected by 2040, including adding 3 million residents and close to 2 million jobs. To put the growth into context, he said it would be like adding the region of San Diego, Calif. to metro Atlanta.

“Growth brings challenges, but also opportunities,” he said. In the last decade, metro Atlanta posted the third largest growth rate in the country.

After the presentation, attendees, from City Councilman Marty Jones to Sue Chappell, representing the Fieldstone neighborhood, divided into small groups to discuss the proposals and formulate questions for the ARC.

The citizens gathered were glad to hear I-20 and Hwy 138 was one interchange identified for improvement. Feedback indicated they wanted more detail regarding what the proposal would mean for Rockdale County specifically.

Chappell said, “The problem is the information we got here wasn’t as rich for a local person to understand the impact.”

Changes proposed to the plan were reducing need for transportation and improving grids and alternatives such as light rail. There was a fair amount of skepticism in the room regarding a new tax.

While the ARC supports recommendations for alternative transportation, such as light rail, and land use solutions, the primary focus of the meeting was on traditional transportation needs.

Currently, $59.5 billion available revenue from federal, state, local and private sources is designated mainly for maintaining existing roads, bridges and transit services over the next 30 years. A smaller percentage of those funds would be used for expanding roadway and transit systems with only 4 percent designated for options other than driving.

Orr estimated traffic and road congestion now costs $1,300 per person, and with just the current budgeted funding that figure will leap to $3,460 per person by 2040.

To meet ARC’s transportation vision, $125 billion is needed to maintain aging infrastructure, relieve roadway congestion, provide more options and promote healthy communities. One way to make up the funding gap suggested by the ARC is the Transportation Investment Act (TIA) of 2010, also informally nicknamed the TSPLOST since it would involve a 1 cent sales tax over 10 years.

The TSPLOST involves a Regional Roundtable, made up of the county commission heads and a mayor of one city in each county, drafting a project list, with public input, funded by the sales tax revenue from all 10 metro Atlanta counties. Of this revenue, 15 percent of funds raised locally are returned directly to local jurisdictions for use on transportation projects they’ve identified.

An executive committee of the Regional Rountable vets the project list which is funded by the rest of the regional tax. The project list would be finalized in October 2011 and put before voters in a referendum in the General Primary in August 2012.

The next significant date for Plan 2040 is an update from the Executive Committee to the full Roundtable on July 7 at ARC’s Amphitheater at 40 Courtland Street Northeast Atlanta. For more information, visit