GRTA also predicts it would take about 15 years to plan, design and construct the light rail line.
GRTA’s Deputy Executive Director Kirk Fjelstul presented figures on transit costs Thursday to the committee tasked to come up with a list of projects to be funded by a decade-long regional transportation sales tax.
The 12.8-mile commuter line, which would connect MARTA to Cobb’s northwest corridor, is still on the table to receive funding from the tax, along with several roadway improvements in Cobb.
Commission Chairman Tim Lee told citizens and county officials at an update meeting on the transportation tax Thursday afternoon that he supports investing in transit for Cobb and beyond if the region is willing to commit.
“Is it worth making a 10-year commitment to transit if we’re not committed for the long term?” he said. “The ultimate decision is ‘does this region want to make a conscious decision to commit to transit?’ I compare it to when Atlanta decided to build Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport or host the Olympics. This is the crossroads we’re at.”
Lee said that if the regional tax were to result in a successful transit network, the state might consider creating a permanent funding stream for those systems.
Marietta resident Bill Owen, a former Lockheed Martin Aeronautics engineer who has designed a monorail-like transit system, said it was important to educate voters about the long-term commitment transit requires.
“Is there going to be another TSPLOST down the road?” he said. “The public needs to be told if this is going to be a long-term plan before the vote so they can begin thinking this way.”
The Cumberland to Midtown line is the first phase of a two-part project that would eventually connect Kennesaw to Midtown Atlanta.
The second phase, which would run from Kennesaw to Cumberland Mall, did not make the first wave of recommended cuts to a $22.9 billion wishlist submitted by local agencies.
Kennesaw Mayor Mark Mathews said even though the portion connecting to Kennesaw is unlikely to be funded by the tax, he still supports building the Cumberland to Atlanta line.
“The reality is the majority of traffic is coming from further north (of Cumberland),” he said. “The Atlanta to Cumberland line is part of a long-term plan that needs to go further.”
Also on Thursday, ARC staff presented the regional roundtable executive committee with three scenarios for a final list to be funded by the proposed tax.
All three include partial funding for the Cumberland to Midtown railway, along with funding for improvements to the Interstate 75 and Windy Hill Road interchange.
Norcross Mayor Bucky Johnson, who serves as chairman of the roundtable’s executive committee, said the scenarios were not the only options and were meant to guide the leaders in the final stages of the process.
“We’re in crunch time now,” Johnson said. “We are trying to make the best list possible we can with the information that is available.”
The executive committee will meet again on Aug. 4.
If passed by voters, the tax is expected to generate about $6.1 billion over 10 years for specific projects. An additional $1.1 billion will be distributed back to local governments to use on other transportation improvement plans. Cobb County and it’s six cities will receive about $17 million over the course of the tax.
Once the executive committee drafts a final list on Aug. 11, a series of public hearings will be held across the region.
The full roundtable must approve the final list by Oct. 15.
Voters will take to the polls to vote on the tax on Jul 31, 2012.
Cobb has the fourth largest population among the 10 counties that will vote for the metro Atlanta tax.