Traffic and transportation were hot-button issues at Commissioner Bob Ott’s third town hall meeting of the year, which was held Wednesday night at the Vinings Estates clubhouse in Mableton.
Several county officials–including Sen. Doug Stoner, Cobb Chairman Tim Lee, Community Development Director Rob Hosack, Economic Development Director Michael Hughes and Transportation Director Faye DiMassimo–attended the meeting.
Ott has not shied away from expressing his opposition to the Transportation Investment Act, which will be sent to voters in July.
“I’m not anti-transit, I’m anti-the-list-that’s-being-proposed,” he told the crowd of about 50.
The $6.14 billion list of transportation projects was approved in October by the Atlanta Regional Roundtable after receiving feedback from citizens, lawmakers and elected and appointed officials.
“Mainly, I think there are some other issues that are more important,” he said.
He said some of the area’s main “chokepoints”, like Interstates 75 and 85 at Windy Hill Road, are not addressed on the final list of regional transportation projects.
The current transportation analysis being done, Ott said, is federally funded and is not “truly looking at all the alternatives.”
About $14 million of Cobb Community Transit’s $18.4 million 2011 budget was subsidized by Cobb taxpayers.
With proposals for expanded transit on the table and included in the TIA, which could take more than a decade to complete, Ott asked, “how are we going to fund that? Where is that subsidy going to come from that we know is going to be there?”
Ott said communities in Cobb are not built for mass transit. It could take a resident just as long to drive to a transit station as it would to drive to the intended destination, he said.
Additionally, traffic lights throughout the county hamper traffic flow as well, he said.
“Traffic lights do not move traffic. Traffic lights stop traffic,” Ott explained.
“Since I’ve been here there have been a proliferation of red lights,” said one 12-year Smyrna resident about the East-West Connector.
Ott assured citizens that the new traffic light being installed in front of the new Race Trac convenience store in Smyrna, should be in sync with the others and keep traffic flowing. Residents should contact Ott’s office if they notice any out-of-sync traffic lights, he said.
Another resident who lives in the area near Oakdale and Buckner Roads in Mableton inquired about the likelihood of alleviating traffic along those roads. Projects to address congestion on the roads have been deemed Tier 2 projects in the most recently passed SPLOST, and Ott emphasized that all Tier 1 projects must be completed before the county can use the funds for others.
Ott said one of the county’s higher priorities for using SPLOST funds is to build new sidewalks and “fill in the gaps” left by developers. The Department of Transportation is shifting many of the sidewalk projects to be completed by county staff instead of contracted to outside companies, which means more sidewalks can be completed.
In addition to transportation issues, residents wanted to know if the county would be able to afford mowing costs for medians.
In 2011, the county eliminated contracts with private companies that removed litter, mowed road shoulders and provided landscaping, according to this Marietta Daily Journal article, saving the county about $900,000.
The county has about 2,400 miles of road, Ott explained.
“We probably didn’t do as good a job as we could have,” Ott admitted, referring to last year when the county could not afford to finish mowing projects.
East Cobb residents have volunteered to complete mowing projects, but liability issues prohibit residents from mowing medians of county roads.
DiMassimo said the maintenance staff of Cobb DOT have been divided into teams and have a friendly competition to get the mowing projects completed. She said the department has jumpstarted the projects.
“We got energized to get a head start and make you guys proud this year,” she said.
Ott advised residents to make him or county staff aware of any particular areas in dire need of mowing attention.
Other topics discussed included:
- A new extended turning lane near the new fire station, to be completed by Labor Day, will mitigate congestion.
- Soft railroad crossings are not likely because of the high costs associated with them. Three solutions are possible for dangerous railroad crossings: road closure–which is favored by the railroad companies, silent or soft crossing or alterations to the road.
- The county has adjusted its tornado sirens to sound only when the National Weather Service emits tornado warnings, which means the sirens will sound less often.
- District 2 currently has $170 million worth of building and development projects planned.