Smyrna Town Hall Meeting Offers Differing Views of Transportation Referendum
The referendum is aimed at easing traffic congestion in Metro Atlanta.
Smyrna residents on both sides of the Transportation Investment Act may not agree on whether to support the tax, but they did come to the same conclusion during Tuesday’s Town Hall meeting: something has to be done about traffic congestion in Metro Atlanta.
“We do want to succeed, we do want to grow,” said Bob Ross, representative of the Transportation Leader Coalition. “Transportation is one of the key factors, but it’s not the only one.”
Ross and the coalition are against the TIA, also known as TSPLOST or the Regional Transportation Referendum.
“Whatever you call it, it’s about what we are going to do about traffic in Atlanta,” said Michael Paris, representing Metro Atlanta Voter Education Network. “The average commute is over 60 minutes. Atlanta has the ninth worst congestion in the country.”
If approved during the July 31 vote, the TIA would last for up to 10 years or until $8.5 billion is collected. The money is set to fund 157 projects that would include road and transit improvements aimed at helping to ease traffic congestion in the metro Atlanta area.
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Paris said the referendum would offer a 4-to-1 return on investment, create 34,000 construction jobs and save $9.2 billion in wasted fuel and time.
Ross, however, disputed many of the statistics presented and said many of the projects would not help fix the traffic issues. He said his own commute would only be cut by 2 minutes. Ross displayed two images of the proposed I-75 connector heading southbound, one full of traffic, the other missing only two cars, signifying the 2 percent drop in traffic congestion that was mentioned.
“Georgians, we can do better,” Ross said. “We must do better.”
Former Senator Chuck Clay spoke in favor of the referendum and explained that the changes will stretch across the region to help millions of people.
“Transit is a critical problem,” Clay said. “Is it perfect? Of course not. But right now, it’s the only answer. It will improve your life.”
Paris explained the need for the ballot by saying the other options for paying for transportation improvements would not be very popular, including raising the gas tax, increasing property taxes, adding more toll roads or creating a vehicles traveled tax that would be based on how many miles a car traveled.
A tax on the miles traveled by vehicles would be something Ross would support, provided a third party company handled the information, and not the government. However, voters need to make sure the money going into the referendum is used effectively, Ross said.
“We just need to make sure there is return value for the dollar that is put into this,” Ross said.
Clay admitted that he could not say for certain that all parts of the referendum would be successful in easing traffic issues, but without the referendum the problem would only get worse.
“I can’t really say what traffic will look like five years from now,” Clay said. “But it’s not going to look better if we don’t do anything.”