Sandy Springs mayor: TSPLOST should include MARTA funding

As The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported today, Fulton County commissioners and mayors are trying to hash out transportation plan to take to voters next year – no easy feat in a county long divided along partisan, geographic and racial lines.

A major sticking point: whether MARTA will get any of the money generated by the sales tax that voters would be asked to approve. Johns Creek officials have made it clear they don't want MARTA to see a dime. But at least one mayor says any transportation plan that doesn't include MARTA might not win his vote.

“It’s got to be done right, or I can’t support it,” Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul recently told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Right for me is long-term and short- and medium-term plans. It can’t be just roads and it can’t be just MARTA.”

Paul said metro Atlanta will need a balanced plan to accommodate millions of new residents expected over the next 15 to 20 years. In his mind, “balanced” includes a significant expansion of mass transit, including an extension of MARTA up Ga. 400.

Johns Creek Mayor Mike Bodker agrees MARTA is part of the long-term solution. But he thinks next year’s transportation sales tax proposal should focus on road improvements, bus service and other solutions to traffic congestion. Bodker said quick progress on those fronts could win voter trust for a MARTA expansion down the road.

“In most other aspects of governing, we crawl before we walk and we walk before we run,” Bodker told the AJC. “Trains is running.”

Paul said Atlanta can’t wait for long-term solutions to its traffic mess.

“I think the worst thing that could happen is we pass a transportation (tax) that focuses on the here and now, that focuses solely on resurfacing and the existing infrastructure,” Paul said. “All of that’s important and needs to be done. But we also need to look down the road.”

Such disagreements will make it difficult for Fulton County’s political leaders to find unanimity on a plan to send to voters next November. Unless they unanimously agree on a plan, the amount of money they can reap from the sales tax will be significantly reduced.

You can read more about the negotiations over a transportation sales tax here.