Atlanta voters to consider sales tax increase for transportation

If voters in Atlanta approve a transportation referendum in November, designers of the plan contend that the city would have the most aggressive system in the country.

The Atlanta City Council on Monday voted 13-1 to place a 0.4 percent tax increase on the November ballot to pay for $379 million worth of transportation projects.

Coupled with a half-penny MARTA referendum that would be on the ballot, people in Atlanta would be faced with an 8.9 percent sales tax on items.

If approved by voters, a good portion of the tax money will be used to do work on the Atlanta Beltline. But it will also touch many neighbors doing everything from building streetscapes to synchronizing the city’s traffic lights.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim, beginning his final stretch in office, said the infrastructure investments are vital to Atlanta’s quality of life and continued economic competitiveness.

“Between the $250 million being spent through the Renew Atlanta bond program and these TSPLOST funds, Atlanta will reap the benefits of more than a half billion dollars invested in new and improved roads, sidewalks, neighborhood greenways, parks and congestion reduction efforts," said Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed. "Combined with a $3 billion expansion of our public transit system through MARTA, Atlanta residents will see unprecedented new investments in strengthening our transportation networks."

Tom Weyandt, who is advising the city on what is known as a TSPLOST, said the proposal, along with other bond projects and the MARTA project, would fix problems and expand existing services.

“This deals with every element – highways, pedestrian, the trail system,” Weyandt said. “This will be one of the most aggressive transportation system in America.”

Weyandt said that if the referendum were approved, 97 percent of a city would be within a half mile of some transportation upgrade.

Faye DiMassimo, the general manager of the Renew Atlanta, which would administer the bonds, called it an “unprecedented story of connectivity.”

DiMassimo said planners and engineers came up with a list of existing plans and new projects that the tax increase would fund, including money for Beltline right-of-way acquisitions, spur trails and lighting; street improvements and sidewalk repair; street widenings and storm water infrastructure; and bike share enhancements.

The language on the Nov. 8 ballot will read: “Shall an additional 0.4percent sales tax be collected in the City of Atlanta for 5 years for the purpose of transportation improvements and congestion reduction?”

If approved by the voters, the TSPLOST will take effect on April 1, 2017.