Atlanta’s new transportation department could be approved by May
Atlanta residents could get their first fully-functioning department of transportation within 18 months of startup, which could be as early as this summer, officials said at a transportation work session meeting on Tuesday. AJC FILE
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By Raisa Habersham
May 1, 2019
Atlanta’s first department of transportation could be approved as early as May, officials said at a transportation work session meeting Tuesday.
City officials presented a more detailed, but still preliminary, plan that included how the department would operate, who would run it, and a proposed timeline for creating the department. The department could be approved by Atlanta City Council as early as its May 20 meeting and would put in motion a nationwide search for a commissioner.
It would take about 18 months after it is approved before the department is fully functioning.
Councilman Andre Dickens, who is chair of of the transportation committee, plans to present the legislation before the committee at its May 15 meeting. The legislation was previously held for the work session after Dickens and Councilwoman Joyce Sheperd each presented similar plans to create the new department. The sole difference is Sheperd’s ordinance, which was filed first, asks the proposed transportation department to oversee funding.
It is not clear whose legislation the committee will vote on May 15.
Senior transportation policy adviser Jacob Tzegaegbe presented a more detailed plan for how the department would function at Tuesday’s work session, which also highlighted structural transportation issues the city faces.
Right now, the city’s transportation needs are divided among the public works department, which repairs city roads; the planning department, which designs them; and Renew Atlanta, which makes long-term investments in transportation infrastructure.
“You can go to three different departments and get three different answers,” Tzegaegbe said during the presentation. “We need to be coordinated.”
A new department of transportation would combine the three departments allowing for a more streamlined process, Tzegaegbe said.
A preliminary outline shows the new agency would have three departments that deal with strategic planning, capital projects and operations and maintenance.
Deputy Chief Operating Officer Joshua Williams said combining the departments will not greatly affect staffing levels. Williams said a “visionary leader” would be put in place in the interim for the department’s startup until a commissioner is hired.
Search for a commissioner will begin once the 2020 budget begins in July.
Initial startup costs for the department were previously estimated to be $2 million, but Williams said an amount is “still in flux” and that the finance department is “working through that process.”
A better estimate could come next month when Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms presents her budget.