How regional T-SPLOST hurts Fayette, and what to do about it
This column will expand upon The Citizen, Sept. 13 article. As well it will cover a proposal for dealing with the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC).
I will also be working on a more extended informational report to place on my web space on the Peachtree City website.
Sept. 24 I attended the Transportation Investment Act (HB277) Seminar at Lake Lanier with Tyrone Mayor Don Rehwaldt. It reaffirmed my first column, what I heard at the GDOT meeting earlier and our shared opposition to this bill. There is nothing positive for us in this plan.
I have another meeting on the 27th, in Atlanta, which is too late to comment on in this column.
On the ARC website there is a wealth of information concerning the bill. It paints a very clear picture that if the bill was passed the current $6.7 billion collection estimate would only cover a fraction of the goals. So they admitted this was actually a 30-year tax, to which I say it is a never-ending tax.
They are also trying to allow for a growth of 3 million people while keeping the area high density urban with little outward expansion. To that I wonder, for instance, how do you accomplish that when Atlanta is already gridlocked from too much in too small an area? An even more critical question is where will they get the water?
The site also has maps illustrating goals to which we can add other proposals to build a “Big Picture.” One goal and map, already being pushed again, is the construction of an outer loop, beginning on the Northside. On the Southside there is a gap from the west terminal, ending at the Fulton County line, to the east terminal, ending in Fayetteville.
Another map shows bottleneck points. There are none in Fayette County with one showing on Interstate 85 that has an association with Fayette. That is the Ga. Highway 74/I-85 junction to which Fulton contributes in a major way with the heavy truck and residential traffic going to Fairburn and the commercial area at the intersection going towards Fayette, along with some Fulton residential traffic.
There is also a lot of Coweta-bound traffic, which can be relieved by widening Fischer Road to I-85. For Coweta commuters it is either I-85 though Newnan, Hwy. 74 off I-85 into Fayette through Peachtree City, or cutting through Tyrone to Hwy. 74 and then through Peachtree City.
Other proposals have buses coming to Peachtree City. This year council removed the commuter rail station from the Peachtree City portion of the County Transportation Plan. But there is still rail in the county portion.
There was also a split grade Hwy. 74/54 intersection we removed as well.
Another map shows city bypasses. The Fayetteville Bypasses are included. The Fayetteville West Bypass was designed for Fayetteville. It is not the Mid-Fayette County By-Pass as some wish to call it after canceling the Fayetteville East Bypass.
Put the puzzle pieces together: Outer Loop terminal, Hwy. 85 north and south, Hwy. 54 to Peachtree City, Hwy. 74, West Bypass, split grade intersection, buses, etc., and you see Fayette becomes a complex interchange in an inter-modal transportation system. That means the end of Fayette being a rural-setting county and the way of life we know.
Can we just opt out of the whole thing? No, it is a regional, not a county, vote. So whatever passes regionally we are a part of, cost and otherwise.
To get a good idea of the tax cost to Fayette the 2004 SPLOST projected $115,857,267 total income to the county for five years, or $23,171,453 per year.
The TSPLOST projects $4,606,275 per year [to Fayette]. The tax is 1 cent in both but the difference is over $18.5 million a year, which mainly contributes to the big counties north of Clayton County.
As well under the proposed 2009 SPLOST, Peachtree City would have gotten about $3.3 million a year, but under the TSPLOST $1 million.
Does this plan have a chance of passing? Yes. If the criterion gets 11 votes in November five of the 21 members are chosen to work with the state authorities, along with numerous “advisors” who are almost, if not all, pro [mass] transit. That on top of the plan having been developed by pro transit entities.
After they finish their work the final criterion will be brought back to the Roundtable where, next year, it will be voted upon to deny or put before the voters in 2012.
We cannot add anything local to it. What the state director submits is the project list from which we have to chose all, some or none. Currently golf cart paths do not meet the criterion. If we don’t pass it, we are heavily penalized.
If it reaches the voter stage, then it most likely will pass. In example Fayette County has about 2.64 percent of the ARC population and is 9th out of 10th for the lowest, with a little over 100,000 people. Fulton, on the other hand, has over 1.1 million people.
The perimeter, or “suburban,” counties are far outnumbered. Those are where the population is most opposed to this bill.
So, what can we do? Leave ARC and return to the Three River Regional Commission.
Get into a region that is more like Fayette, does not have rail, bus and other items Atlanta wants but we oppose.
Work with them on development projects and plans that fit our desires and our region instead of everything being Atlanta-focused all the time.
Move from the failed Old Growth Model to Smart Growth.
Are we alone in considering this? No, in sidebar conversations some other counties are also thinking about it. So Three Rivers could become a potent force if Fayette and some others join forces with those already in Three Rivers to plan for our mutual future.
The Core Counties within I-285 have common problems and shared visions they need to solve. But they are not our vision or problems. As a city we have much more in common with Newnan and Griffin, in example, than we do with Atlanta.
It is time to move.
[Don Haddix was elected mayor of Peachtree City in 2009. Previously, he had served two years as a council member. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.]