Don’t expect significant changes to Gwinnett’s existing transit plan — the same one tied to March’s failed referendum — before the deadline to submit projects for inclusion in metro Atlanta’s larger regional plan.
There may not be the will. And there’s definitely not enough time, county Commission Chair Charlotte Nash said Tuesday.
A primary mission for the new state agency known as the ATL — or Atlanta-region Transit Link Authority — is to create a comprehensive transit plan for the entire 13-county region it represents. The authority will incorporate project proposals from participating counties and plans to solicit them in June or July, ATL interim executive director Chris Tomlinson told Nash and colleagues during a Tuesday afternoon briefing.
Gwinnett’s existing plan, which was created prior to the decision to call the county’s referendum, will serve as the county’s guide for projects submitted to the ATL. That fact is not altogether surprising: the plan took nearly two years to create and involved multiple rounds of public input.
But the referendum’s failure during March’s special election and the surrounding debate about what was included in the multibillion dollar proposal — everything from a rail extension into Norcross and multiple bus rapid transit lines to new Express routes and park-and-ride lots — raised questions about potential changes before next steps were decided.
That’s unlikely to happen. At least before the rapidly approaching ATL deadline.
“Having used the public participation process that we did to create the plan, in my mind if we’re gonna make any kind of substantive change to the plan, we really owe the public a chance to go back through that process,” Nash said.
“So the timing just dictates that we go with what’s been through the process already.”
Tomlinson said the ATL’s goal is to have the first regional plan assembled by December. That’s important because the same state law that created the ATL requires counties wishing to call a public referendum on a 30-year transit-funding sales tax to present a specific list of projects to voters.
Those projects must already be included in the regional plan.
Despite a fair degree of push back, Nash has maintained that she hopes Gwinnett will see another transit referendum in the near future — possibly as soon as next year.
“I think our biggest problem was we didn’t do as good a job as we could have, perhaps, with articulating to voters clearly what’s in the plan,” Nash said. “I know I continue to see comments that indicate people had no idea the service that was going to be available close by to where they live or work.”
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