Lee said the latest proposal now promotes an Acworth-Midtown bus line. Whether the rail line ever becomes a reality, instead of a widely criticized plan, will depend on two factors: the results of the county’s “Alternative Analysis” transit study due in February 2013; and whether the county receives federal dollars for the rail line. The county now intends to spend most of its TSPLOST dollars on upgrading an Acworth-Midtown bus line.
The rail line “for the moment has been put on the back burner as we seek out the results of the AA and alternative funding. If that becomes available then we’ll talk about it,” Lee said.
The project list now earmarks $689 million for Cobb’s bus/rail proposal. The draft list that the roundtable’s five-member executive committee approved in August included $865.5 million for the Cumberland-Midtown rail line.
“At the end of the day, if funding becomes available and if AA brings it to fruition, we’ll consider looking at the light rail down the line,” Lee said. “If funding doesn’t become available, or the AA doesn’t point that way, then we’ll continue with the Bus Rapid Transit as our final deliverable.”
Lee said his new proposal came after listening to citizens such as state Sen. Lindsey Tippins (R-west Cobb), who questioned the wisdom of spending $865.5 million on a rail line that wouldn’t be operational for at least a decade, when Cobb County residents are suffering from traffic congestion in “the here and now.”
The proposal addresses “the here and now in terms of road projects, the here and now in terms of transit,” Lee said. “We can get buses up and running, mind you, on a corridor that has excessive demand for our current system. This will help, I think, not only demand for our corridor of people in Cobb, but it will be a viable alternative for folks that live in Cherokee and Bartow counties that travel through our community to get to 75 or wherever they’re going.”
Faye DiMassimo, director of Cobb’s transportation department, said that $689 million earmark for “enhanced premium transit service” breaks down into $110 million for bus service from Acworth to the MARTA Arts Center Station and the remaining $579 million for whatever transit service the AA study recommends, be it bus rapid transit or light rail.
DiMassimo acknowledged that the county, in conjunction with the Georgia Regional Transit Authority, already operates bus service from Acworth.
“We’re working with GRTA as to how those express routes would transition into this service,” she said. “This would be a more coordinated, fully integrated, commuter-directed type service in that corridor than what we presently have.”
Other big ticket projects that were approved as part of the Lee/Mathews proposal include:
* $89.5 million to improve the Windy Hill Road and Cobb Parkway intersection;
* $47 million to improve the Windy Hill Road and I-75 intersection;
* $29 million to improve Lake Acworth Drive/SR 92, a regional roadway connecting Cobb Parkway with I-75.
Mathews said after the meeting that he was pleased.
“I think we’ve done a good job at dealing with what was handed to us by the legislature and picking projects that impact the region as well as projects that impact us locally in Cobb County and in the Kennesaw area as well,” Mathews said. “We’ve done exactly what we’ve been asked to do, and I’m pleased with the project list that we’ve got.”
Four of the 21 members on the roundtable voted against the Lee/Mathews proposal. They were: Fulton’s representatives, County Chairman John Eaves and Union City Mayor Ralph Moore; Rockdale County Chairman Richard Oden; and Lake City Mayor Willie Oswalt of Clayton County.
A proposal by Rockdale Commission Chairman Oden seeking to take $10 million for a bike path and another $5 million for a road-widening project from the $984 million allocated to Cobb failed, with only Oden and his fellow Rockdale representative, Conyers Mayor Randy Mills, voting in favor.
Other amendments that seek to take funding from Cobb were tabled until the next meeting on Tuesday. A final vote on all projects in the $6.14 billion list is slated for Thursday.
Mathews said while it is possible Cobb’s list could be revised at the Thursday meeting, he thinks it is unlikely.