Feds deny Cobb’s transportation grant request

The entire state of Georgia was shut out of $500 million in federal TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grant awards this year. In addition to Cobb's $10 million application for improvements along U.S. 41, and Atlanta's $30 million bid for the street car, here's a look at other Georgia applications passed over by the U.S. Department of Transportation:

  • Roswell, for a project to build sidewalks, two roundabouts, and a reversible lane system.
  • Johns Creek, to build a flexible lane on Ga. 141/Medlock Bridge Road.
  • Fulton County, to upgrade the I-285 and Cascade Road interchange.
  • Atlanta, to partner with the PATH Foundation to build a multi-use path on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, from Fulton Industrial Boulevard to Northside Drive with connection stubs for MARTA.

Cobb County’s transportation department was passed over for a $10 million federal grant for improvements along U.S. 41, between Kennesaw State University and the Cumberland area where SunTrust Park is under construction.

The TIGER grant awards were announced Thursday by the federal transportation agency, which declined to give money to any projects in Georgia.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in June that incorrect information was included in Cobb County's grant application, and a West Cobb resident filed a complaint over that issue with the U.S. Department of Transportation's Office of Inspector General.

The county’s application says that commissioners “accepted” the controversial bus rapid transit project as a “preferred alternative” among several transit options for the area. In reality, no vote had ever been taken to make it the county’s preferred alternative, which is an important designation when applying for federal funds.

In fact, Cobb voters roundly rejected the 2012 regional transportation sales tax referendum, which would have helped fund rapid transit.

Cobb's TIGER grant application was for improvements that included building bus-only lanes at a handful of intersections and installing technology that would allow bus drivers to control stop lights along the corridor — both of which are aspects of the bus rapid transit project.

The same language was incorporated in another key document — an environmental study for the bus rapid transit project that is necessary for the county to qualify for a federal grant that would pay half of that $500 million project. The issue is important because the federal government wants to know there is public support for projects it funds.

“I have no way of knowing if my input had any bearing (on the TIGER grant), but I feel that if the county is to be taken seriously when competing for competitive grants, it must have true local buy-in for the project, and should never exaggerate that level of buy-in,” said resident Tom Cheek, who filed the IG complaint.

Cobb officials say the $20 million SMART Corridor project described in the grant application is unrelated to rapid transit. Commission Chairman Tim Lee and Cobb transportation director Faye DiMassimo said in separate statements Thursday that they were disappointed, but that the county would continue to pursue funding from other “partners.”

“You win some, you lose some,” Lee said in a statement issued through his spokeswoman. “When the appropriate funding is secured, we will move forward with the … project.”

DiMassimo said the SMART Corridor project is important “to meeting the ever growing mobility and capacity needs in the Cobb Parkway corridor.”