Transportation public meeting scheduled

Henry County residents are being given an opportunity to make their voices heard regarding potential transportation improvements in the area and the region.

The Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) will host a public meeting, Sept. 13, from 6 p.m., to 8 p.m., at the Henry County Administration Building, 140 Henry Parkway, in McDonough. The purpose of the meeting is to update residents on the progress of the Transportation Investment Act of 2010, according to Henry Commission Chairman Elizabeth "B.J." Mathis.

"The meeting is designed to inform our citizens on what the Transportation Investment Act is, and will detail projects of interest to them," said Mathis. "The meeting will explain the projects selected for Henry County, the 15 percent discretionary money that the county and each city would received if passed, and also the continuation of the [Georgia Regional Transportation Authority] Xpress bus services for our citizens."

The legislation was signed into law in June of 2010, enabling the public to have input on future transportation projects, which are part of a transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (T-SPLOST) proposal for the region, said county spokesperson Julie Hoover-Ernst.

"There will be a general question posed on the ballot in the 2012 primary asking voters if they support a penny sales tax to pay for construction of the projects," Hoover-Ernst said. "Known as the 'Regional T-SPLOST,' the proposed penny sales tax is expected to bring over $700 million annually over a 10-year period for the Atlanta region, to fund transportation projects, if approved by voters."

She said the law established a Regional Roundtable consisting of elected officials from each of the state's 12 regions, to develop a list of projects which would be funded by a one-percent sales and use tax. The meeting, Hoover-Ernst said, will include a question-and-answer session, as well as a table with maps, resource materials, videos and a place to fill out a survey.

One transportation endeavor which did not make the final cut of projects, Mathis added, is a commuter-rail concept for the southside of metro Atlanta.

"Clayton County submitted that project, and I am sure their Chairman [Eldrin Bell] will be working over the next couple of months to try and get that project reinstated," she said. "The final list must be approved by Oct. 15."

Kay Pippin, president of the Henry County Chamber of Commerce, said her group has not taken a formal position on the T-SPLOST, and most likely will not do so until the project list is finalized. Pippin encouraged the community to be vocal about those projects which they would like to see on the list.

"We are pleased with the local road projects currently on the list, but we feel strongly that the half of the Metro Atlanta region south of I-20 was overlooked when the transit dollars were being divvied up," Pippin said. "If Henry County, and its neighbors are ever to benefit from the epicenter of Georgia's economy -- Atlanta -- we need to be connected via a truly regional transportation network that includes commuter rail.

"It is important that we think regionally," she continued. "After all, over 65 percent of our residents go out of county to work each day, and transportation improvements in other counties will directly benefit Henry County's commuters. We all know that Atlanta is home to some of the worst traffic gridlock in America, and it will not improve unless we are pro-active as a region."

The public meeting will feature representatives from the Georgia Department of Transportation, Henry County government and the ARC, said ARC spokesman, Jim Jaquish. He said the Roundtable must hold at least two public meetings between Aug. 15, and Oct. 15, when the final constrained list will be adopted.

A total of 12 public meetings on the Transportation Investment Act will be held during that time period, the ARC spokesman said.

"The Roundtable wants to get as much public input on the list as they can, because they want to know what projects people would support and vote for," said Jaquish. "We're trying to set these up so that people can come in person, but we're also trying to get in touch with all the public-access channels and have them air the same presentation, on television, that people will see at the meeting. That same presentation will also be available on the roundtable web site, along with a survey people can take online."

Hoover-Ernst said portions of the ARC's presentation will be aired on the county's cable channel, TV-14.

For more information, visit www.atlantaregionalroundtable.com.