ARC hosting final T-SPLOST forum in Clayton

Commuter Rail to be reconsidered on eve of meeting

Photo by Curt Yeomans: The Atlanta Regional Commission will hold a public forum in Clayton County on Thursday, to gage public support for a $6.14 billion regional transportation sales tax plan that would, among other things, turn Tara Boulevard in Clayton County into a “super arterial” highway.

Photo by Curt Yeomans: The Atlanta Regional Commission will hold a public forum in Clayton County on Thursday, to gage public support for a $6.14 billion regional transportation sales tax plan that would, among other things, turn Tara Boulevard in Clayton County into a “super arterial” highway.

The Atlanta Regional Commission is scheduled to close out its month-long tour of 10 counties in the state’s metropolitan Atlanta transportation region this week with a trip to Clayton County, the county’s leaders have announced.

An ARC regional roundtable, made up of elected officials from local counties, has been tasked with creating a $6.1 billion list of transit and road projects to be funded by a proposed regional transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax that will go before voters next year.

Clayton County Board of Commissioners Chairman Eldrin Bell, and Lake City Mayor Willie Oswalt are members of the ARC’s regional roundtable.

The roundtable’s executive committee compiled a rough draft of the final list last month, and the ARC has spent the last month going county-to-county, seeking public input on the proposed transportation list, in a series of forums.

The Clayton County forum is scheduled to be held Thursday, from 6 p.m., to 8 p.m., at the Clayton County Board of Commissioners Office, located at 112 Smith Street, in Jonesboro. Bell, in a written statement, said the ARC “values the input” of residents living in the areas included in the metropolitan Atlanta transportation region.

“I feel that our citizens should be fully informed regarding the transportation issues that are being proposed for Clayton County,” he said. “The projects being presented should help relieve congestion and keep existing businesses from leaving the area, while luring in new businesses. Therefore, this forum will serve as an information-gathering session for everyone.”

Clayton County has $313.17 million in transportation projects on the ARC’s rough-draft list. There are seven Clayton County transit and road projects on the list, which include: Turning Tara Boulevard into a “Super Arterial” highway ($130 million); re-establishing local bus service in the county ($100 million), and building a “Jonesboro Connector” road that would connect Tara Boulevard to Lake Jodeco Road.

There are also several road-widening projects, spread around the county. Widening projects would take place on Conley Road, from Interstate 285, to Ga. Hwy. 54 ($28.2 million); on Ga. Hwy. 85, from Pointe South Parkway, to Roberts Drive ($22 million), and from Adams Drive, to Interstate 75 South ($16.95 million), and on Ga. Hwy. 54, from Tara Boulevard to McDonough road, in Fayette County ($8.02 million).

People who attend the forum will hear a presentation from transportation experts, and will be asked to fill out a survey. The regional roundtable is set to approve the final project list on Oct. 15. Residents can go online, to www.atlantaregionalrountable.com, to see the roundtable’s full, rough-draft project list.

“We need to hear from residents ... so we can be sure the investments on the list are the ones that best meet the needs of the region,” said Norcross Mayor Bucky Johnson, the chairman of the roundtable’s executive committee, in a written statement.

Commuter Rail may get new life?

One aspect of regional-transportation planning that continues to be the center of debate is an Atlanta-to-Griffin commuter rail line, which would cut through Clayton and Henry counties. Clayton County commissioners asked for it to be added to the regional project list, but it was cut by the ARC roundtable’s executive committee over the summer.

Bell has now introduced an amendment to the proposed list, to re-introduce the commuter rail project, at a cost of $350 million. The amendment is scheduled to be considered by the full roundtable when it meets Wednesday, at 2 p.m., at the Atlanta Regional Commission Amphitheater, located at 40 Courtland Street, in Atlanta.

Bell could not be reached Tuesday for comment on the requested amendment. He made the request on Sept. 22, and it was seconded by another regional roundtable member, Union City Mayor Ralph Moore, according to ARC documents.

In his amendment request, Bell wrote that the commuter rail line is “Georgia’s only realistic opportunity” to connect Atlanta with the rest of Georgia, through rail lines. The Atlanta-to-Griffin line is seen as a first step to a larger, long-term plan to connect Atlanta with Macon, and eventually, Savannah.

“As the first investment in the corridor between Atlanta and Savannah, this is the only project of significant regional and state impact,” Bell wrote. “This will be the only rail investment south of I-20, has strong support in the corridor, inside and outside Atlanta.”

Bell’s amendment calls for the roundtable to make room for funding of the Atlanta-to-Griffin line, by making approximately $354.99 million in cuts to the allocations for several other projects on the regional list.

Some of the larger cuts Bell is recommending include: A fixed guideway transit line from midtown Atlanta, to Cumberland Mall in Cobb County (an $85.65 million cut); a “Clifton Corridor” line for MARTA ( a $70 million cut), and the Atlanta Beltline and Streetcar project (about a $60.18 million cut).

Bell has even proposed cutting $10 million from the money the regional roundtable’s executive committee has set aside for local bus service in Clayton County on the rough draft of the T-SPLOST list.