Atlanta Journal Constitution
June 2, 2013

By Field Searcy

With trust in government in short supply, finding a way to handle critical road projects that actually relieve traffic congestion in metro Atlanta is desperately needed.

We at the Transportation Leadership Coalition (TLC) are glad to see our state government finally addressing credible projects like the Interstate 285 and Georgia 400 interchange instead of chasing billions of dollars’ worth of low-impact transit projects as were found in the Transportation Investment Act referendum.

Yes, indeed, the Interstate 285 and Georgia400 interchange project should proceed, but we have little to cheer about. The enormous cost of the interchange improvement will inhale the lion’s share of our state transportation funds. The commute for a majority of the metro population who do not use Georgia 400 will remain a congested drag on their lives.

The Atlanta region now finds itself in a situation where many of the counties will not have an opportunity to make any significant congestion relief progress at all due to a lack of funds. Our opportunities were squandered. The self-indulgent special interests kept trying to convince us that overly expensive commuter rail and non-effective light rail are substitutes for major road improvements. We were told the Beltline, nothing more than a local Atlanta economic development project, was worth nearly $2 billion of our tax dollars.

We can blame the incredibly poor project selections in the regional governance-driven transportation referendum, which led to its failure. We can also blame the total lack of activity in the 2013 General Assembly pertaining to all things transportation.

The state needs to develop more sophisticated ways to address problems like the Interstate 285 and Georgia 400 interchange improvement. Why not create a way for the affected counties in the area to help pay for it locally?

State Rep. Ed Setzler, R-Acworth, introduced House Bill 195 in 2013 that would have allowed counties to create their own special district, set their own list of projects and have their own referendum. The legislation was viewed as a positive way to maintain local control and solve problems. Unfortunately, the bill never made it out of committee.

It is interesting that government can always justify building a new football stadium costing over $1 billion, but they cannot be motivated to produce more than one significant highway project out of the many we truly need.

To commuters across metro Atlanta, the Interstate 285 and Georgia Highway 400 interchange project will stand as a symbol of how little control our citizens have over our state government and how low our expectations should be.

This type of situation will continue as long as we choose the wrong priorities and chase massive multi-billion dollar projects. Some say regional governance is the answer. We believe regionalism leads to less local control, more unaccountability and poorer results; not to mention, it’s unconstitutional!


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