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Locust Grove mayor chosen for roundtable

By Valerie Baldowski

vbaldowski@henryherald.com

Locust Grove Mayor Lorene Lindsey is among a group of 11 area leaders who were selected to be members of the Metro Atlanta Transportation Roundtable.

Lindsey was chosen in August to serve on the roundtable, which is scheduled to meet in November. The purpose of the group is to discuss potential transportation projects, said Lindsey.

The Metro Atlanta Mayor Association's (MAMA) Executive Committee will join with the Regional Business Coalition of Metropolitan Atlanta, to sponsor a seminar on the Georgia 2020 Transportation Act - House Bill 277, which became law on June 2.

Mike Bodker, MAMA chairman, said the projects up for discussion will be grouped into three categories, which include transportation, such as road widening and road improvements; transit projects, including commuter rail; and bicycle/pedestrian projects.

What makes the roundtable discussions important is the collaboration and cooperation they encourage, said Bodker.

"At the end of the day, we have to recognize that the transportation issues facing our region have to be solved regionally. We can no longer deal with transportation issues myopically," he said.

Henry County is included in the Atlanta Region, which is one of the areas that will be covered in the transportation discussions. Bodker said State Department of Transportation Planning Director Todd Long has established a set of preliminary, draft criteria, which will guide the project selection in each region.

In the past, local governments had a tendency to make transportation decisions on their own, Bodker said. "They haven't done as good a job of coordinating those projects as they could have," he added.

Most transportation projects cross jurisdictional lines, through cities and counties and unincorporated areas, he continued.

Some of the other preliminary Transportation Improvement Projects (TIP) to be considered include commuter rail service through Atlanta, Lovejoy, Griffin and Macon; transit facilities in Henry County; and operating assistance for the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority (GRTA) express bus service, according to the Atlanta Regional Commission's (ARC) web site.

The ARC and local governments have until Sept. 30, to send Long comments on the draft criteria, according to Bodker.

HB 277 created the Georgia 2020 Transportation Trust Fund Oversight Committee, and provides for the allocation of money from the trust fund, said the MAMA chairman. It also allows for a 1-percent special transportation sales and use tax to fund transportation projects.

Transportation proposals submitted to the committee would have to achieve the best value for the money, said Bodker. The projects must also be able to be delivered on time and on budget, and have public acceptance and trust, he added.

Bodker said if a majority of roundtable members agree on a project list, it will be submitted to the voters, who would be asked to implement an extra penny-on-the-dollar sales tax to pay for the projects. Referendums would be held across the state in November 2012, with votes being tallied by region. If the ballot fails in some counties, but passes in the region overall, the 1-percent tax will still be charged in all of the municipalities and counties, he said.

Lindsey stressed that the ARC will play a pivotal role in the transportation deliberations. "Since I'm already on the board of the ARC, the rest of the cities said for me to be the [mayoral] participant in Henry County," she said. "The ARC is going to play a big part in this, so being on the board, we'll have continuity."

Henry County is facing its own set of traffic challenges, specifically the Eagle's Landing Parkway area, said Lindsey. "Our greatest transportation [issue] is congestion," she said.

Traffic in Locust Grove near exit 212 is also heavy during the afternoon commute home, Lindsey said. Plans are for an additional lane to be added along a section of Bill Gardner Parkway, from Interstate 75 to Tanger Boulevard, added the mayor.