Top Cobb officials announced Tuesday they want to "significantly" redirect potential TSPLOST funding for a proposed light rail station in the Cumberland area and construct reversible toll lanes in the Interstate 75/575 corridor.
The proposal by Cobb Commission Chairman Tim Lee, Kennesaw Mayor Mark Mathews, members of the Cobb legislative delegation and officials with the Atlanta Regional Roundtable backing next summer's TSPLOST effort comes a month after the Georgia Department of Transportation dropped plans for reversible lanes at the behest of Gov. Nathan Deal.
Deal said he was uncomfortable that a private company would be managing the $1 billion toll lane system, which includes 18 miles along I-75 in Cobb and 11 miles of I-575 in Cherokee.
Should Cobb drop light rail TSPLOST funding for I-75 toll lanes?
Voters in 10 metro Atlanta counties, including Cobb, will vote next summer on the penny TSPLOST tax that would fund an estimated $6.2 billion in transportation initiatives.
Of the nearly $1 million that would be earmarked for Cobb, $689 million is designated on the project list for the Cumberland light rail plan, supported by Lee but opposed by other Cobb elected officials.
The Cobb alternative unveiled Tuesday calls for most of the light rail funding -- should the TSPLOST pass -- to be used for the toll lanes instead.
"We would never have focused on the transit piece if we had known that the I-75/575 project was in jeopardy," Lee said. "The suspension of the I-75/575 project by the state is a substantial and material change caused by the state after the project list process ended. The state should afford us the opportunity to fix that in this list.”
But changing the TSPLOST project list now requires a change in state law, which Georgia House Speaker David Ralston has said he's wary of doing.
After hearing remarks from State Sen. Chip Rogers (R-Cherokee) at Tuesday's press conference at the Capitol, the AJC's Jim Galloway concluded that "what we may be seeing is a very public, politely worded message to Deal: Please find the funding for those new lanes up I-75, or Cobb may sink the T-SPLOST for the whole metro area."