MARIETTA - U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson said he believes Cobb County can obtain federal funding to help pay for a proposed $494 million bus rapid transit line connecting Kennesaw State University with Midtown Atlanta.
"I arranged a meeting at the Department of Transportation with (Secretary of Transportation) Anthony Foxx and Tim Lee and the Cobb DOT director," Isakson said. "It's gonna take a lot of work, but I think it's going to be done."
Isakson said he believes the Cobb government has convinced Foxx the project would alleviate traffic on Interstate 75, which was enough to procure federal funds.
The plan is for the bus route to run on the reversible, tolled lanes expected to open on I-75 in 2018, as well as along a new, dedicated lane on Cobb Parkway.
Commissioner JoAnn Birrell said the possibility of federal funding was "encouraging," but was hesitant to get her hopes up before she saw the final plan.
"Federal funds would definitely help to lower the amount of local funds needed to collect for the project," Birrell said, noting she wanted to make sure there were "no strings attached" before accepting any offers from Washington.
Birrell emphasized that the bus plan was still in the preliminary phase, and nothing had been decided.
County commissioners are expected to take action on the proposal in April, and if funding falls into place, the bus line could be operational by 2018, county chairman Tim Lee told the MDJ.
Nearly 100 people fought the rain last month to hear Isakson speak to the Cobb GOP over bacon and pancakes. Isakson urged them to back the Republican Party in the November election to replace retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss.
Residents packed the main hall of the GOP headquarters off Roswell Street and listened as Isakson denounced Obamacare, the lack of federal support for veterans and the president's handling of the U.S. military presence in the Middle East.
The senator spoke to the crowd for roughly 20 minutes, urging members of the tea party to unite with the Republican Party and back whoever the Republican Senate primary winner is in May.
"The fight for the heart and soul of America will take place in the race for the U.S. Senate" in November, he said.
Isakson painted a bleak picture of the inner-workings of Congress, where he said most Republican-backed bills had been squashed by Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid. He wants to change that in the next election, and make it easier for Republican bills to get passed.
"We've gotta hold Georgia," Isakson said.
Yet Jerry Kotyuk of east Cobb, a member of the Marietta-based Georgia Tea Party's board, said he would only vote for a Republican candidate who shared his values.
"I don't just want people with R's behind their names, I want real conservatives who will fight," to uphold tea party conservative values, he said. "I'm a conservative first, and a Republican second."
Scott Alexander, 17, who attends Blessed Trinity High School, stood up to ask Isakson about the nation's involvement in Iran.
"Our No. 1 enemy is Iran," Isakson replied.
Birrell to run again
In addition to Birrell, who announced she would be seeking another term on the Board of Commissioners, Cobb Board of Education Chairwoman Kathleen Angelucci was in attendance at the Cobb GOP's January meeting along with board members Tim Stultz and Brad Wheeler.
State Public Service Commissioner Lauren "Bubba" McDonald, who drove more than 100 miles to make it to the breakfast, impressed the crowd with his singing of the national anthem, an effort repeatedly complimented by Isakson.
Tricia Pridemore, who is running to replace outgoing U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Marietta), asked people for their vote. Also there were Gingrey, state Sen. Bruce Thompson (R-Cartersville) who represents a sliver of north Cobb, state Rep. John Carson (R-northeast Cobb) and Stan Wise, a state PSC commissioner.