BY THE NUMBERS
Telephone Town Hall results, June 21
134, 405 participants
218 questions taken live
421 callers using toll free line
10.59 minutes, average time on the call
Poll questions in order of ranked importance
How important is it that the metro Atlanta region increase its investment in transportation?
63% very important
23% somewhat important
14% non important
Do you think new transit is critical to the long term success of the region?
TSPLOST info session on July 19 (July 15, 2011)
Oden, Mills answer town hall questions (June 21, 2011)
Rockdale projects make TSPLOST wish list, mostly (June 1, 2011)
Local residents voiced questions, concerns, and preferences about the $6.2 billion regional transportation one cent sales tax up, nicknamed the TSPLOST, for a vote next year and the projects it could fund during an informational session Tuesday evening.
Rockdale County CEO Richard Oden, Conyers Mayor Randy Mills, and Atlanta Regional Commission staffer Kathryn Lawler were on hand to describe some of the Rockdale projects that made it past the first two rounds of cuts onto the $12.2 billion draft constrained project list. That list will be culled down to $6.2 billion by the executive committee of the Atlanta Transportation Roundtable, made up of a mayor and county commission chair of the 10 counties in the Atlanta region. The final project list will be formed by October.
Oden stated to the audience of about 30 residents, "MARTA is not coming to Rockdale County. Period." ARC External Affairs Manager Kathryn Lawler explained that only projects on the draft project list could be voted on, and there were no MARTA projects for Rockdale on the draft list and no projects could be added at this point.
During question and answer period, resident Brian Jenkins, who previously announced a bid for the CEO seat in 2012, said the reason residents were wondering about MARTA projects in the county was because Oden had expressly talked about rail transit coming to the county.
Oden pointed out that Rockdale could be subject to the TSPLOST even if the referrendum failed in the county but won a majority of votes in the region.
Mills said the debate in the roundtable now was transit versus road projects for the $6.2 billion. "That's not a lot of money when you look at the big picture," Mills said. He indicated he thought the roundtable should get the biggest bang for its buck, but also said residents needed to take a bird's eye view of the big picture and keep in mind projects outside of Rockdale that could benefit Rockdale residents, such as improvements to the I-20 corridor to the I-285 interchange.
Resident Elaine Nash expressed her disapproval of the TSPLOST. The money that would be collected could be used to do many of the Rockdale projects proposed on the TSPLOST list, with help from the Georgia Department of Transportation, if it were kept in county, she said.
In light of further cuts to the list that would be coming, Councilman Marty Jones told Mills and Oden which projects he thought were lower priority: the Hayden Quarry Road widening and Ga. Highway 138 north road widening.
Mills and Oden agreed the intersecton at 138 and Dogwood Drive was a priority, along with the widening of the Sigman Road corridor and the non-access bridge over I-20. After the meeting, they said they agreed wtih the priority recommendation of the SPLOST transportation committee, which listed the Sigman Road widening, non-access bridge, and the widening of Flat Shoals Road, because those were not GDOT roads.
Also on hand to ask questions were city councilmen Cleveland Stroud, Gerald Hinesly, Vince Evans and County Commissioner Oz Nesbitt.
Evans asked if the projects might not skew to favor larger counties with more voters. Lawler said the mission statement of the Roundtable specifically expressed regional equity. She also pointed out the small counties had the same number of votes as the bigger counties. "There's a real balance," she said. "Everyone's going to have something in it."
Hinesly asked what would happen if there were incomplete projects at the end of the 10 years and not enough were left in funds. Mills said no projects would be started that couldn't be completed in 10 years.