A bill that could lead to a dramatic expansion of mass transit in metro Atlanta passed the state House of Representatives Wednesday – without a special provision designed to coax Cobb County into allowing an expansion.
House Bill 930 would provide tens of millions of dollars for transit expansion in a 13-county area and would potentially provide hundreds of millions of dollars more in local sales taxes devoted to public transportation. It passed the House by a vote of 162 to 13.
After the vote, House Speaker David Ralston said it would lead to “better coordination, better efficiency” in the region’s mass transit system.
Among other things, the bill would create a new board to oversee transit planning and construction in the region. And it would allow Gwinnett County residents to vote on whether to join MARTA later this year.
The House approved an amendment that stripped the bill of a provision that could have paved the way for a transit expansion in south Cobb County.
The provision would have allowed the Cobb Board of Commissioners to create a special transportation district in south Cobb. If voters approved, the district could have levied a sales tax to support a transit expansion – a tax that would not have been levied in the rest of the county.
The district grew substantially to include about a third of the county before it was struck from the bill Wednesday – a victim of disagreement among Cobb legislators about how large it should be. Some parts of the county are eager for more transit, while others want nothing to do with it.
Like the other 12 counties in the region, Cobb would still be able to hold a countywide transit tax vote – though County Commission Chairman Mike Boyce believes such a vote would fail.
Boyce told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that negotiations over the size of the proposed transportation district continue. He said it could be revived as House and Senate negotiators hash out an agreement on a final transit bill.
The Senate today is expected to pass its own transit legislation – Senate Bill 386.
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