Democrats want Gwinnett MARTA vote this year

Several Democratic lawmakers believe Gwinnett County is ready for a MARTA expansion, and they’d like to see it put to voters this year.

The state representatives have introduced House Resolution 1033, which asks the Gwinnett Board of Commissioners to seek public input on a MARTA expansion into Georgia’s second-largest county. If commissioners determine a majority of residents want a MARTA expansion, the resolution asks them to seek a public vote in 2016.

“Let’s not say, `people from Gwinnett don’t want it,’” state Rep. Pedro Marin, D-Duluth, said at a press conference Wednesday. “Let’s see if that’s true.”

The resolution has no Republican co-sponsors, so its prospects appear dim. But it’s the latest sign that transit supporters don’t plan to remain silent.

Last April a Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce poll found 63 percent of likely Gwinnett voters favor a MARTA expansion, and half supported a 1 percent sales tax to pay for it. Last fall a local community improvement district sponsored public transportation discussions that found support for a variety of commuting options, including mass transit.

Gwinnett voters have twice rejected MARTA by overwhelming margins, most recently in 1990. County Commission Chairwoman Charlotte Nash, a Republican, remains skeptical that a MARTA expansion would pass today. She does not support a vote this year.

In a statement addressing the House resolution, Nash noted Gwinnett is updating its comprehensive transportation plan, a process that will involve public input on “decisions about future transportation approaches and projects in Gwinnett.”

“Such far-reaching decisions deserve in-depth, critical analysis that considers multiple options and opinions,” Nash said.

That process should be completed next year.

HR 1033 is sponsored by half a dozen Democrats who represent parts of Gwinnett, mostly along the I-85 corridor.

Marin said he understands the reluctance of county officials to discuss a MARTA vote this year. Gwinnett already plans to ask voters to renew a 1-cent sales tax for transportation, parks and other construction projects in November.

If it doesn’t happen this year, Marin said he’ll push for a vote in 2017.

“What I want is for us to keep talking about rapid transit,” he said.

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