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Comprehensive Transportation Plan has last public hearing

By Joel Hall

jhall@news-daily.com

Public attendance was low during the last of several meetings hosted by the county to engage the public about its Comprehensive Transportation Plan (CTP), a charted effort to improve transportation in the county over the next 20 to 30 years.

A handful of people stayed for the two-hour meeting, which took place at the Jim Huie Recreation Center on Thursday. The meeting was the last face-to-face discussion before the consultants configuring the CTP take their recommendations to be approved by the Board of Commissioners in July.

After studying the needs of the community, CTP Senior Project Manager Janide Sidifall said a "very rough estimate" of the cost associated with making all of the wanted traffic improvements is $1.5 billion. However, the actual projects to be completed would depend on the amount of federal, state, and local funding available at the time.

"[The $1.5 billion] is the big wish list," said Sidifall. "Right now, we are working to constrain that. It's a wonderful wish list, but it's funding that supports it and makes it real."

Keith Rohling, Clayton County SPLOST (Special Local Option Sales Tax) project manager assigned to the CTP, said the February passage of the 2008 SPLOST secured funding, which makes many of the projects achievable.

"We know [the county is] strapped [for cash]," said Rohling. "The SPLOST has been a big help to get a lot of work done over the next five years that wouldn't have been done."

The plans include extending a heavy rail line from the East Point MARTA (Metro Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority) Station to a proposed Southern Crescent Transportation Service Center in the Mountain View area. Proposals also include widening several major thoroughfares, creating sidewalk networks in several key areas, and creating several additional bus routes to service under-served areas of the county.

Sidifall said a commuter rail line extending to Lovejoy will be a "center piece" of the CTP, due to the connectivity points it will provide. She said funding for the rail has already been earmarked through the Atlanta Regional Commission's regional transportation plan. However, the ARC is waiting for a solid commitment from the involved parties to provide the operational cost of the rail line.

Members of the community present at the meeting expressed some caution over the project's plan to make Tara Boulevard into a limited access highway by creating access roads for local traffic, and limiting the number of exit points for through traffic.

While the measure is meant to decrease congestion, some audience members feared it would take away business from the county's main thoroughfare.

"We don't want to make ten more problems by trying to fix one problem," said Artansa Snell, a candidate for the State Senate District 44 post. "We want a solution that works."

The CTP is "not even in the conceptual stage," at this point, said Sidifall. However, "if you don't put it out there, it will never be a viable solution."

Citizens can still weigh in on the CTP by visiting www.co.clayton.ga.us, and clicking on the "Connecting Clayton" logo.